For years, pharmaceutical firm Johnson & Johnson has faced great scrutiny for the sale of their products containing talcum powder. Over 3,000 lawsuits have been filed across the country against the company, many of which are in relation to its baby powder and its link to ovarian cancer. A number of factors, including the location of the suit and the jurisdiction, have dictated the plaintiff's results. For example, in New Jersey, two cases involving who had developed ovarian cancer were dismissed based on claims of insufficient evidence. However, in Missouri and South Dakota, Johnson & Johnson awarded plaintiffs tens of millions of dollars in damages last year for their potentially harmful products.
A new case involving a Virginia woman who filed a lawsuit against the company set a record for the biggest payout yet when she was awarded a whopping $110.5 million for her injuries. The jury ruled in Lois Slemp's favor this week for alleging that her prolonged use of Johnson & Johnson's baby powder products led to ovarian cancer and other serious health issues in 2012. The 62-year-old also named supplier Imerys Talc in the suit, which provides the talc in the company's products. The jury held this defendant liable for $50,000 of damages in her case.
The basis for Slemp's case has been similar to other plaintiffs whose cases were thrown out of court. Talc is a mineral that has been used in cosmetics for decades. When compressed into a white powder, is it considered especially handy for absorbing moisture.Tons of research has been conducted about talc and its link to ovarian cancer. Overall, researchers have concluded that there has been no link or a weak one between cancer and the feminine hygiene products. Concerns have since festered, but so far all the evidence surrounding these claims are inconclusive. In fact, the opinions and research associated with these links are so conflicting that the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies talc used in the genital area as “possibly carcinogenic.”
Slemp's payout may have been a result of her rare allegation that the products were contaminated with cancer-causing agent, asbestos. After 40 years of using the feminine hygiene products, the cancer has spread to her liver, causing her to undergo chemotherapy. Slemp was declared too sick to attend trial, an audiotape of her deposition was played for the court.
“I trusted Johnson & Johnson,” she said. “Big mistake.” She also claimed that she was “thrilled with the verdict in hopes that it would “send a message” to the company.
Johnson & Johnson released a statement revealing its plans appeal this ruling and contend the scientific evidence provided in Slemp's allegations. The company referenced two dismissed cases in New Jersey where a judge said that there wasn't any well-founded evidence that proves that talc leads to ovarian cancer.
“We are preparing for additional trials this year and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson's Baby Powder,” the statement said.