Eva Echeverria Vs Johnson & Johnson – $417 Million Talc Verdict
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:
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 sixth 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 of ovarian cancer 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.
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.
Slemp V Johnson & Johnson – $307 Million Verdict
On May 4, 2017, Johnson & Johnson suffered another 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. Although the defendants attempted to have the jury verdict overturned using the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., the judge rejected the argument and upheld the verdict, finding that Slemp had established proper jurisdiction in the Missouri court.
Giannecchini V Johnson & Johnson – $70 Million Verdict
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 – $55 Million Verdict
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 – $72 Million Verdict
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 was not the first time that the company has been handed a guilty Talc 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.
Brower V Johnson & Johnson
The case of Diane Brower, brought by family members, is scheduled to go to trial July 15, 2019 in Georgia. Mrs. Brower used J&J’s Baby Powder for feminine hygiene twice a day beginning when she was a teenager. She was diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer in 2013 and died three years later at age 65.
In the Brower case, lawyers for Johnson & Johnson had challenged the credentials and expertise of three experts who are expected to testify on behalf of the family of a Georgia woman who died of ovarian cancer. Georgia state courts follow the same standard as federal courts to qualify witnesses as experts in court. Lawyers for J&J sought to exclude the testimony of Dr. Laura Plunkett, a board-certified pharmacologist and toxicologist; Dr. John Godleski, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health; and Dr. James Barter, director of Gynecologic Oncology Research at Holy Cross Hospital in Rockville, Maryland.
In her March 26 ruling, Judge Jane Morrison rejected those challenges and will allow all three to testify in the upcoming jury trial. Ted Meadows, who heads up Beasley Allen’s Talc Litigation Trial Team, said, “These medical experts are world class in their specialties, and their opinions are based on expertise sharpened through rigorous and objective scientific training. For too long, J&J has ignored concerns from the medical community about talc and cancer. We’re pleased that jurors will have an opportunity to hear these facts. We will keep our readers informed as to all further developments.”
State Court Talc Litigation
Other attorneys are also seeing victories in talcum powder cases involving ovarian cancer diagnoses, and have filed appeals to keep major awards for plaintiffs, including a $70 million award in Missouri, a $110 million verdict in Missouri, a $110 million verdict in Missouri, a $4.69 billion verdict in Missouri, and a $417 million verdict in California.
Federal Talc Litigation
The multidistrict litigation (MDL) is proceeding against J&J subsequent to the filing of Chapter 11 bankruptcy by Imerys Talc America, the J&J talc supplier, in February. Depositions were taken of Plaintiffs’ experts in late 2018 and early 2019; defense expert depositions were taken in March and April. A Daubert hearing will begin on July 22, 2019. Experts from both sides will appear before the court at the hearing. The court, at the conclusion, will rule on the admissibility of the expert testimony.
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