In 1892, Johnson & Johnson invented its iconic baby powder when it added perfume to Italian talcum powder, a material made by grinding up a soft mineral known as talc. Talcum powder was later sold for use with sanitary napkins women used after childbirth, and was eventually incorporated in many other products for personal hygiene, as well as cosmetics. Talcum powder was added to these products because it absorbed moisture and reduced friction, helping to keep skin dry and prevent rashes. Generations of women used it on a daily basis in their genital area to reduce odor. Unfortunately, the talc used to manufacture these products was sometimes contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen, which the American Cancer Society has identified as a risk factor for ovarian cancer. In October 2019, the FDA updated one of its Safety Alerts, warning not to use talcum powder that tested positive for asbestos.
Growing awareness of the possible link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer spawned many lawsuits against Johnson and Johnson, which failed to warn users of asbestos contamination and the risk of contracting ovarian cancer, some of which have resulted in very large jury verdicts. One such verdict in Missouri, for example, awarded $4.69 billion in damages to a group of 22 plaintiffs in July 2018. In June 2020, a state appellate court upheld the jury’s finding that Johnson and Johnson was at fault, but reduced the award to $2.12 billion after dismissing some of the plaintiffs. In November 2020, the Missouri Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal, allowing this ruling to stand. Johnson & Johnson said that it plans to appeal this adverse decision to the United States Supreme Court.
Although Johnson and Johnson has never admitted any wrong doing on its part, it has settled many claims. According to Bloomberg News, Johnson and Johnson agreed to settle more than a thousand cancer lawsuits involving its baby powder for $100 million. This was allegedly the first time that the company had settled a large group of ovarian cancer cases at one time instead of settling them one by one. Even after this mass settlement, however, Johnson and Johnson, still faced tens of thousands of talc-related lawsuits.
Johnson and Johnson has also recalled some of its products and stopped selling them in some countries. In 2019, Johnson and Johnson recalled 33,000 bottles of its baby powder “out of an abundance of caution” after the FDA found small amounts of asbestos in a bottle of powder. In the same year, Johnson and Johnson stopped marketing its talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada, although it continued to market these products in other countries. The company continued to sell cornstarch- based products in the United States and Canada. Persons who wish to continue using baby powders and shower products should seek out asbestos free products.
Thousands of women with ovarian cancer have brought lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson. If you or a loved one have developed ovarian cancer after regularly using talcum powder products, please contact James F. Humphreys & Associates, L.C. at 304-881-0652 (local) or 877-341-2595 (toll free) for a free initial consultation. You may also contact us at our website, www.jfhumphreys.com.
Lawrence Buckfire, The National Law Review, How to File a Baby Powder Ovarian Cancer Lawsuit, 12/28/20.
Tim Povtak, Johnson & Johnson Will Pay $100 million in Baby Powder Lawsuits, 10/6/20.
Jonathan Stempel, Reuters, Johnson & Johnson fails to overturn $2.12 billion baby powder verdict, plans Supreme Court appeal, 11/3/20.
FDA News Release, Baby powder manufacturer voluntarily recalls products for asbestos, 10/18/19.
Jeff Feeley, Bloomberg News, J&J to Pay More Than $100 Billion to End Over 1,000 Talc Suits, 10/5/20.