Jury awards record-setting $110.5M in baby powder lawsuit

Posted May 09, 2017

There have been 5 verdicts handed down over the past 18 months deciding whether talc increases ovarian cancer risk when regularly used for feminine hygiene.

Lois Slemp, 62, of Wise, Virginia was awarded the sum by a jury in St Louis, Missouri and the pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson will have to pay up.

About 2,000 women in the United States have filed similar suits against the company over health damage caused by extended use of Johnson & Johnson talcum powder use. "We sympathize with the plaintiff's family, but firmly believe the safety of cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence". J&J lost jury verdicts of $72 million, $55 million and $70 million a year ago, while winning the first trial in 2017.

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Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson noted that one St. Louis jury found in its favour in a similar case in March, and two more cases were thrown out by a judge in New Jersey. But manufacturers have been removing asbestos from talc products since the 1970s, and evidence of any link between asbestos-free talc and cancer is "less clear", the society said.

Baby powder and talc have been the cause of many lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson.

A jury in the U.S. has ordered health products giant Johnson & Johnson to pay more than US$110 million [NZ$159 million] to a woman for allegedly failing to disclose the cancer risk from its baby powder and another product.

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Lois Slemp, who lives in the USA state of Virginia, is undergoing chemotherapy after her ovarian cancer, initially diagnosed in 2012, returned and spread to her liver. This was the fifth trial concerning the safety of their product. Another jury says yes. The Missouri case is one of the cases where J&J lost and has paid up a total of over $300 million in settlements since 2016. However, most major health groups have declared the product harmless in more recent years.

Because of its size and diversified product lines, J&J is sued frequently and investors don't panic when it loses product liability lawsuits, so its stock price rarely drops much after losses.

However, one must also remember that the main cause of ovarian cancer is still unknown and experts doubt talc's role in the development of the disease since there is too little convincing evidence to prove it.

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Talc is a mineral that is mined from deposits around the world.