By Adam W. Pittman on August 21, 2017
Johnson & Johnson Reeling After $417 Million Verdict In California
The first court case in California against Johnson & Johnson for its talc products associated with ovarian cancer resulted in a massive payout against the pharmaceutical giant. The four-week trial resulted in the Los Angeles jury siding with Eva Echeverria, a 63-year-old woman with terminal ovarian cancer who claimed Johnson & Johnson failed to warn customers about the risk in using its talc products.
The result: Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay out $417 million, the largest amount yet in the many suits ongoing against the healthcare company.
Echeverria was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007, and though doctors removed a softball-sized tumor, she is now near death. In fact, she was not even able to be in court for the trial. However, she testified via videotape that she used Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder from when she was 11 years old until 2016, when she saw a story about a woman with ovarian cancer who used the same product. She testified that if she had been given a warning that the product could cause ovarian cancer, she wouldn’t have used it.
Just two days of deliberating led the jury to award Echeverria $70 million in compensatory damages and $347 million in punitive damages, agreeing with her that there was, in fact, a connection between her cancer and the company’s talc-based powder. This marks the third-largest jury-awarded verdict in the United States thus far in 2017.
In California alone, more than 300 lawsuits are currently pending against Johnson & Johnson, and there are more than 4,500 lawsuits across the United States. All suits contend that the pharmaceutical company ignored data that showed their talcum-powder based products were contaminated with asbestos, increasing the risk of cancer in anyone using the products.
A 1982 study released during the trial revealed that women who used talc products on their genitals were at a 92 percent greater risk of developing ovarian cancer. It also revealed that the lead researcher, Daniel W. Cramer, had advised Johnson & Johnson to include a warning label on its talc-based products. Another study brought to light in the suit was from 1999 by the National Cancer Institute, which also concluded that “avoidance of talc in genital hygiene might reduce the occurrence of a highly lethal form of cancer by at least 10 percent.”
The National Cancer Institute has released data that shows ovarian cancer accounts for 1.3 percent of all new cancer cases in the United States. It’s the eighth most common cancer among women and the fifth-leading cause of cancer-related death among women.
Johnson & Johnson has now lost four other jury verdicts in St. Louis, Missouri, which total $300 million.
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