Tort Law

Jury awards $55M to woman who claimed Johnson & Johnson talcum powder caused her cancer

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A Missouri jury verdict of $72 million earlier this year in a landmark tort case blaming talcum powder for an Alabama woman’s ovarian cancer death wasn’t just a fluke.

A second St. Louis jury on Monday awarded $55 million on Monday against Johnson & Johnson in another talcum powder case, including $50 million in punitive damages, reports the Associated Press.

This time, the 62-year-old plaintiff Gloria Ristesund—who alleged that use of talcum powder in her genital area caused ovarian cancer—was alive to see it. However, Ristesund, who lives in South Dakota, reportedly declined to comment. Another 1,200 cases making similar claims against Johnson & Johnson await trial in state and federal court, according to her attorney, Jim Onder.

Ristesund’s cancer has been in remission since she underwent a hysterectomy, reports Bloomberg.

Johnson & Johnson, which plans to appeal both verdicts, says the plaintiffs’ claims are contradicted by scientific evidence.

“Unfortunately, the jury’s decision goes against 30 years of studies by medical experts around the world that continue to support the safety of cosmetic talc,” says a written statement provided to the AP and Bloomberg by a company spokeswoman.

Others, including the American Cancer Society, say studies are unclear but point out that those who wish to avoid a possible risk could switch to products containing cornstarch, according to CNN Money.

In tort cases, whether the product is properly labeled can be an important issue. Ristesund alleged that Johnson & Johnson was aware of a risk to customers but ignored studies linking its Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower products to ovarian cancer and didn’t warn them, Bloomberg reports.

Attorney Allen Smith, who also represents Ristesund, told jurors on Friday that his client had used products containing talc for four decades, unaware of any potential risk.

“Science has been simple and consistent over the last 40 years: There’s an increased risk of ovarian cancer from genital use of talc,” he said.

The jury finally voted 9-3 to make the award after most decided that talc was a contributing factor in ovarian cancer, Bloomberg reports.

“After we agreed on that, everything was easy,” said forewoman Teri Brickey. “We felt like they knew for decades that they should have put a warning on this product.”

The supplier of the talc, which is mined from soil, was found not liable in both cases.

Related coverage: “St. Louis jury says J&J must pay $72M to family of dead woman in landmark talcum powder cancer case”

Washington Post (reg. req.): “Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $72 million in suit linking talcum powder to ovarian cancer”

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