Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay a record-breaking $417 million in damages by a Los Angeles jury on August 21st. Eva Echeverria, a Californian citizen, was awarded this sum in a cancer lawsuit regarding the company’s popular brand of baby powder, and its link to ovarian cancer.
The lawsuit claimed that Johnson & Johnson did not adequately warn consumers of the risks associated with the talc found within the baby powder. Documentation released by Johnson & Johnson during the trial showed that as early as 1964, the company was aware that the risk of ovarian cancer existed. It is this evidence that may have influenced the jury in its final verdict, as well as the level of compensation it owed.
One cancer lawsuit among many
The Eva Echeverria lawsuit is unique for the massive damages Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay. It is not the only cancer lawsuit directed at the company or this particular product. Thousands of victims have directed lawsuits at J&J for ovarian cancer linked to the baby powder produced by the company.
Over three hundred lawsuits in California still await trial.
The first of these lawsuits was filed in 2009 by Diane Berg of South Dakota. For decades she had used the baby powder for hygienic reasons on a daily basis. No warnings about the potential cancer were ever on the bottles. The company approached her with an out of court settlement of 1.3 million, on the condition that she sign a confidentiality agreement to remain silent about the case. She refused the offer.
In the end, Berg received no monetary compensation. The lawsuit was the first among thousands, and it would eventually be revealed that the company had suppressed information about the potential risks for over four decades.
Why is baby powder so potentially dangerous?
The primary cause of concern surrounds talc, a key ingredient in the Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder. This mineral is the softest known to man, and is used as a main component to beauty and hygiene products around the world.
Research into ovarian cancer in 1971 revealed that a majority of the studied ovarian tumors contained talc powder particles. Theoretically, talcum powder used around the genitals may make its way to a woman’s ovaries. From there, it is possible the particles eventually caused these tumors.
It is this information, as well as internal documentation that Johnson & Johnson revealed during its most recent lawsuit, that points to a real connection between talcum powder and cancer.
Guided by science
Johnson & Johnson is planning a vigorous defense and appeal of the results in its most recent case. The Echeverria cancer lawsuit joins four others, from February 2016 until the present day, that have cost the company over $700 million in damages. With thousands of cases still awaiting trial, the company claims it will contest the resulting verdicts in court.
“We will appeal today’s verdict,” J&J released in a statement after the August 21st verdict, “because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder.”
However, despite the company’s defenses and its own evidence to the contrary, a jury in Los Angeles disagreed, as have many others. It remains to be seen if J&J will be able to fend off the cancer lawsuit storm that has been brewing for the better part of a century. For ovarian cancer sufferers like Eva Echeverria and Diane Berg, the money does not change the fact that they had been using a potentially dangerous product. Nor does it change the fact that countless numbers of people have been using products containing talc, and few may be aware of the risks.