Beasley Allen attorney Leigh O’Dell has been appointed to serve as Co-Lead Counsel for consolidated Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) in New Jersey federal court concerning talcum powder’s link to ovarian cancer. Michelle Parfitt of Ashcraft & Gerel, a firm based in Washington, D.C., will also serve as Co-Lead Counsel.
The lawsuits allege that defendant Johnson & Johnson is liable for personal injuries or wrongful deaths that resulted from ovarian or uterine cancer in women who used the company’s talc products for feminine hygiene. More than 70 cases are pending in the MDL. Judge Freda L. Wolfson, United States District Judge for the District of New Jersey in Trenton, was appointed by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to preside over the MDL.
“I feel very honored to serve on behalf of the thousands of women who are suffering and many dying of ovarian cancer as a result of their long-term use of talcum powder,” O’Dell said. “Despite numerous credible scientific studies showing an increased risk of ovarian cancer, Johnson & Johnson has never warned users of their Baby Powder or other talcum-powder-based products. Internal documents make clear that J&J and its principal supplier of talc have been aware of the risks of ovarian cancer for many years. Rather than act responsibly and warn consumers, Johnson & Johnson suppressed safety information and actively misled women about the dangers of genital talc use. The company’s conduct is reprehensible, and we look forward to continuing to pursue justice on behalf of these deserving women and their families.”
Already this year, three juries have found Johnson & Johnson liable for injuries or wrongful death resulting from the use of its talc-containing products such as Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder for feminine hygiene.
In October, a jury awarded Plaintiff Deborah Giannecchini $70.075 million after agreeing the products contributed to the development of her ovarian cancer. The verdict included $575,000 in medical damages, $2 million in compensatory damages, and $65 million in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson and $2.5 million in punitive damages against Imerys Talc America, Inc., which supplies talc to Johnson & Johnson. This was the first jury verdict against Imerys in this litigation.
On May 2, a jury awarded Gloria Ristesund $55 million, which included $5 million in actual damages and $50 million in punitive damages. In February, another jury awarded the family of Jacqueline Fox $72 million, holding Johnson & Johnson liable for her ovarian cancer death. In that verdict, $62 million was punitive damages. The purpose of awarding punitive damages is to punish a company for wrongdoing and to compel it to change its actions.
Scientific research, including more than 20 well-executed scientific studies, shows that women who have ever used talcum powder for genital hygiene are at a 30-60 percent increased risk of developing ovarian cancer compared to those who have never used it. In the U.S., ovarian cancer affects about 24,000 women a year and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among women. One medical expert calculates that this use of talcum powder leads to nearly 10 percent of the new ovarian cancer cases reported annually, and it is estimated that 1,400 women die from talc-related ovarian cancer each year. This modifiable risk factor, if eliminated, could prevent the diagnosis and save the lives of thousands of women each year. Yet Johnson & Johnson has ignored and attempted to discredit these scientific studies and still refuses to provide warning labels on talc-containing products about the link between talc and ovarian cancer.