Largest Verdict to date supporting plaintiff argument that talc causes cancer

Posted: 8/23/2017

On Monday August 21, 2017, a jury in Los Angeles, CA issued a plaintiff the largest verdict of its kind to date in the amount of $417 million to a 63 year old woman, Eva Echeverria, and against Johnson & Johnson for failure to warn her that use of its Shower to Shower and Baby Powder products could cause cancer. During the trial, the plaintiff's counsel persuaded the jury that talcum in the J&J products was not only capable of causing cancer, but did in fact induce Ms. Echeverria's terminal ovarian cancer due to her constant use of the products from the age of 11 until 2016. She was diagnosed in 2007. She testified at her trial that had J&J put a warning label on the product, she would have stopped using it. The jury deliberated for 2 days and then awarded her $70 million in compensatory damages and $347 million in punitive damages. The punitive award was apparently issued pursuant to evidence that in 1982, Johnson & Johnson was made aware of a study that showed a 92% increased risk for developing ovarian cancer for women using talcum powder on their genitals. At that time, researcher Daniel W. Cramer had advised the company to put a warning label on the product which J&J did not do. Johnson & Johnson will be appealing the verdict.

 

The question of talc causing cancer has for years been typically answered in the negative. However, with this new run of plaintiff verdicts, it's possible the tide may be turning on that causation question for the industry. It will be interesting to see how J&J challenges this verdict on appeal, especially with regard to the science that supported plaintiff's case.