Johnson & Johnson loses again in fifth trial brought by ovarian cancer victims

ST. LOUIS – On May 4, a jury awarded more than $110 million to a Virginia woman who claimed that decades of daily use of Johnson & Johnson’s (NYSE: JNJ) talcum powder products caused her ovarian cancer. The verdict is the latest blow against the health care conglomerate and its co-defendant Imerys Talc America, a multinational company that mines and processes talc for J&J.

In the latest trial, Lois 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. Initially diagnosed in 2012, Ms. Slemp endured surgery and seven months of chemotherapy to combat the disease.

Earlier this year it was discovered the cancer had returned and spread to her liver. She is currently undergoing additional chemotherapy treatment, and due to her physical condition she was only able to testify through an audio recording of her deposition.

The four-man, eight-woman jury in Judge Rex M. Burlison’s 22nd Judicial Circuit Court heard more than three weeks of testimony, and deliberated for 10 hours before returning the verdict, which includes $5.4 million in compensatory damages and $105 million in punitive damages against the two companies.

Johnson & Johnson was found liable for $105 million in punitive damages and $5 million in compensatory damages. Imerys was found responsible for $50,000 in punitive damages and $54,000 in compensatory 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 the Beasley Allen law firm in Montgomery, Alabama.

“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.”

Three trials brought by other women suffering from ovarian cancer led to jury verdicts last year of $70 million, $72 million and $55 million against the New Jersey-based health care company. Earlier this year, a St. Louis jury found in favor of the companies, the first verdict for the defense among the thousands of claims filed in courts across the nation. That case is currently under appeal.

During the trial, attorneys for Ms. Slemp called a number of prominent scientists and researchers who testified that more than 20 well-executed studies show a link between ovarian cancer and genital applications of talcum powder. The jury was also shown a trail of internal documents as evidence that J&J has known about those dangers for decades but has attempted to suppress and dismiss the findings. Under Missouri law, Ms. Slemp was selected by the defense from among the possible plaintiffs for trial.

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