More than $100 million has been awarded to plaintiffs accusing Johnson & Johnson of failing to take action after a potential link was discovered between talc powder and ovarian cancer. Yet, the company continues to manufacture talc-based products and insists that the ingredient is safe.
Attention was first drawn to talc when it was removed from J&J baby powders in the 1970s. Talc was quietly replaced with corn starch, but other products maintained their talc content. One of those products was Shower to Shower – a feminine hygiene product that was heavily marketed throughout the 80s and 90s.
In 1997, an external medical consultant to Johnson & Johnson wrote a memo to company leaders stating that the continued denial of a link between talc and ovarian cancer was tantamount to “denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”
Study after study would support this claim, with some finding as much as a 33 percent increase in the likelihood that a woman would develop ovarian cancer after long-term application of Johnson & Johnson talc powder to her genitals. In fact, when one South Dakota woman underwent a hysterectomy after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, talc was actually found in her ovarian tissue.
As it currently stands, over 1,000 talc lawsuits are set to go to trial in state and federal courts across the United States. And now Reuters is reporting that plaintiffs’ attorneys are starting to seek consolidation of the federal lawsuits into a multi-district litigation. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation was petitioned on July 15th to consolidate almost a dozen cases under one case in federal court in Illinois.
If permitted, the move does not bode well for Johnson & Johnson. As previously stated, the company has already been ordered to pay out over $100 million, and it is worth noting that that sum was paid to just two plaintiffs. Most of these awards have been punitive in nature. $15 million was awarded in compensatory damages while a combined total of $117 million was ordered as punishment for J&J in response to their alleged cover-up and inaction when faced with the fact that their products were harming consumers.
Both sides anxiously await the panel’s decision.