Eva Echeverria vs Johnson & Johnson
On Aug. 21, a Los Angeles, California, jury awarded plaintiff Eva Echeverria $417 million, finding Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products responsible for her ovarian cancer. This was the first of hundreds of similar cases filed in California to go to trial. After a four-week trial and more than two days of deliberations, the jury held Johnson & Johnson liable for failing to warn of a link between its talcum powder products and ovarian cancer. This was the largest verdict against J&J in the talc litigation and the first delivered outside of Missouri.
The first ovarian cancer talc trial in California involved the claims of Eva Echeverria, a lifelong resident of Los Angeles who began daily use of Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products when she was 11 years old. Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007, she has undergone several surgeries and numerous chemotherapy treatments since that time. The jury verdict included $70 million in compensatory damages and $347 million in punitive damages. The closely watched trial began on July 26, and is part of the consolidated Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Cases, case number JCCP4872, in the Superior Court of California for Los Angeles County. Echeverria is represented by Mark P. Robinson Jr., Kevin F. Calcagnie, Scot Wilson and Cynthia Garber of Robinson Calcagnie Inc.; Allen Smith of The Smith Law Firm; Ted Meadows, David Dearing and Ryan Beattie of Beasley Allen Law Firm; Helen Zukin from Kiesel Law Firm; and Michelle A. Parfitt of Ashcraft & Gerel LLP.
Michael Blaes, Savanna Crews and Darlene Evans v Johnson & Johnson
The sixth talc trial in St. Louis Circuit Court started as scheduled on June 5, but Circuit Judge Rex Burlison declared a mistrial on June 19 as the result of a U.S. Supreme Court verdict affecting jurisdictional issues.The Supreme Court ruling involved cases filed in California against pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. over injuries allegedly caused by its blood thinner Plavix. The Supreme Court ruled that state courts are limited in their authority to hear claims against companies that are not based in the state, or when the alleged injuries did not occur there.
Plaintiffs in the latest talc trial represent the estates of three women who died from ovarian cancer following long-term genital applications of talcum powder, including Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Power and Shower to Shower products. Plaintiffs include Michael Blaes of Webster Groves, Missouri, whose wife, Shawn Blaes, died of ovarian cancer at age 50. She was a competitive figure skater, coach and co-owner of a skate shop in Webster Groves. She was initially diagnosed with cancer in 2008. Angela Hershman died at the age of 46 after using talcum powder for more than 29 years. Ms. Hershman was from Grenta, Virginia, and her daughter, Savanna Crews, is pursuing her claims against Johnson & Johnson and Imerys after her mother’s untimely death on April 5, 2016, after her ovarian cancer diagnosis. Eron Evans died on Jan. 1, 2016, at the age of 41. Her premature death was the direct and proximate result of her more than 30 years of talcum powder use and subsequent ovarian cancer diagnosis. Darlene Evans is pursuing the claims on her daughter’s behalf. The case is Blaes v. Johnson & Johnson et al., case number 4:14-cv-00213 in Missouri’s 22nd Judicial Circuit Court.
Slemp v Johnson & Johnson
On May 4, 2017, Johnson & Johnson suffered its fourth loss in talcum powder ovarian cancer litigation. A jury in the City of St. Louis found J&J, along with its talc supplier, Imerys Talc America, liable for plaintiff Lois Slemp’s ovarian cancer, and awarded a verdict of more than $110 million. Ms. Slemp, 62, alleged that more than four decades of using talc-containing feminine hygiene products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, led to the development of her cancer. The verdict includes $5.4 million in compensatory damages, and $105 million in punitive damages. Johnson & Johnson and Imerys’ losses in the talc litigation to date total more than $307 million.
Giannecchini v Johnson & Johnson
On October 27, 2016, a jury in City of St. Louis Circuit Court found Johnson & Johnson liable for injuries resulting from the use of its talc-containing products and awarded Plaintiff Deborah Giannecchini $70.075 million after agreeing the products contributed to the development of her ovarian cancer. For the first time, a jury also found J&J talc supplier Imerys liable for damages as well. The verdict includes $575,000 in medical damages, $2 million in compensatory damages, and $65 million in punitive damages. Ms. Giannecchini used Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder for feminine hygiene for more than 40 years. She was 59 when she was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer four years ago, and has since endured multiple surgeries and chemotherapy regimens.
Ristesund v Johnson & Johnson
On May 2, a jury in the City of St. Louis Circuit Court awarded Plaintiff Gloria Ristesund $55 million in her lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson alleging her ovarian cancer was caused by the company’s talcum powder products. Ms. Ristesund used Johnson’s Baby Powder for more than 40 years for feminine hygiene.
The jury’s award included $5 million for actual damages and an additional $50 million in punitive damages. This was the third trial in which Johnson & Johnson was found liable for ovarian cancer linked to its talc-containing products, and the second trial to award damages to the Plaintiff.
Beasley Allen attorney Ted Meadows noted that punitive damages are intended to punish a company for wrongdoing. Evidence provided at trial showed J&J has been aware of a link between talcum powder use in the genital areas and an increased risk for ovarian cancer for decades but refused to warn the public. A study led by Dr. Daniel Cramer, head of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Epidemiology Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, was published in the medical journal Epidemiology in March. The report noted that women who routinely apply talc to their genitals have a 33 percent higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Fox v Johnson & Johnson
On Feb. 22, 2016, a jury in City of St. Louis, Mo., Circuit Court found Johnson & Johnson liable for the development of Plaintiff Jacqueline Fox’s ovarian cancer and awarded her family a verdict of $72 million. Ms. Fox passed away from ovarian cancer in October 2015. She used talc-containing products for 35 years. The verdict includes $10 million in actual damages and $62 million in punitive damages.
This was the first time a jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay damages over these claims, but it is not the first time that the company has been handed a guilty verdict. J & J was found liable in a 2013 product liability lawsuit in South Dakota, where a jury found in favor of plaintiff Deane Berg on her claim that Johnson & Johnson did not adequately warn consumers of the link between talc and ovarian cancer.
Ms. Berg was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006. Her cancerous tissue was examined by three doctors using a scanning electron microscope. The physicians discovered talc on the ovaries, concluding that the talcum particles were able to migrate through the vagina, uterus and fallopian tubes to the ovaries. When the ovaries became inflamed from the talcum particles, the growth of cancer cells began.
Even after this litigation Johnson & Johnson refused to add warning labels to its products.