A Virginia woman was awarded more than $110 million by a jury on May 4, 2017, after claiming that her daily use of Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products for decades led to her developing ovarian cancer.
The verdict was the latest strike against the healthcare giant and its co-defendant Imerys Talc America, a global firm that extracts and refines talc on behalf of J&J.
During the trial, Lois Slemp, 62, claimed that using feminine hygiene products containing talc for over four decades, such as Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, caused her to develop cancer. Slemp was diagnosed in 2012 and had to undergo surgery and seven months of chemotherapy to fight the disease.
Months before the verdict, it was discovered that the cancer had returned and spread to her liver. She is undergoing additional chemotherapy treatment, and due to her physical condition, she could only testify through an audio recording of her deposition.
After hearing more than three weeks of testimony and deliberating for 10 hours, a jury of four men and eight women in Judge Rex M. Burlison’s 22nd Judicial Circuit Court returned a verdict.
The court held Johnson & Johnson liable for $5 million in compensatory damages and $105 million in punitive damages, while Imerys was ordered to pay $54,000 in compensatory damages and $50,000 in punitive damages.
“Once again, we’ve shown that these companies ignored the scientific evidence and continue to deny their responsibilities to the women of America,” said Ted Meadows, co-lead counsel for Ms. Slemp and a principal at Beasley Allen.
In 2016, three women who had ovarian cancer brought trials against the New Jersey-based healthcare company. The jury awarded them verdicts of $70 million, $72 million, and $55 million. However, earlier this year, a St. Louis jury ruled in favor of the company, marking the first verdict for the defense against the thousands of claims filed across the nation. That case is currently under appeal.
“They chose to put profits over people, spending millions in efforts to manipulate scientific and regulatory scrutiny. I hope this verdict prompts J&J to acknowledge the facts and help educate the medical community and the public about the proper use of their products.”
During the trial, lawyers representing Slemp called multiple respected scientists and researchers who testified that over 20 thorough studies show a connection between ovarian cancer and the use of talcum powder in the genital area. Additionally, the jury was presented with internal documents as evidence that J&J had been aware of these dangers for years yet tried to hide and discredit the findings. Under Missouri law, Slemp was chosen by the defense as one of the possible plaintiffs for trial.