A jury has awarded a woman $70million in damages against Johnson & Johnson after the woman claimed talcum powder caused her ovarian cancer.
Deborah Giannecchini of Modesto, California was diagnosed with the disease in 2012 and accused the company of ‘negligent conduct’ in making and and marketing the baby powder.
The lawsuit claimed Mrs Giannecchini contracted the disease after using baby powder in an intimate area.
Deborah Giannecchini, pictured, of Modesto, California claimed using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder in an intimate fashion over many years led to her developing ovarian cancer
Jim Onder, Mrs Giannecchini’s lawyer, said: ‘We are pleased the jury did the right thing. They once again reaffirmed the need for Johnson & Johnson to warn the public of the ovarian cancer risk associated with its product.’
However, the company has rejected there is any risk to using their product – even in intimate areas – and will appeal the massive award.
Carol Goodrich, spokesman for the company said: ‘We deeply sympathize with the women and families impacted by ovarian cancer. We will appeal today’s verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder.’
Earlier this year, two other lawsuits in St Louis ended in jury verdicts worth a combined $127million. But two others in New Jersey were thrown out by a judge who said there wasn’t reliable evidence that talc leads to ovarian cancer, an often fatal but relatively rare form of cancer.
Ovarian cancer accounts for about 22,000 of the 1.7million new cases of cancer expected to be diagnosed in the US this year.
About 2,000 women have filed similar suits, and lawyers are reviewing thousands of other potential cases, most generated by ads touting the two big verdicts out of St. Louis – a $72million award in February to relatives of an Alabama woman who died of ovarian cancer, and a $55million award in May to a South Dakota survivor of the disease.
Deborah Giannecchini of Modesto, California claimed using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder in an intimate fashion over the course of many years led to her developing ovarian cancer
Much research has found no link or a weak one between ovarian cancer and using baby powder for feminine hygiene, and most major health groups have declared talc harmless. Johnson & Johnson, whose baby powder dominates the market, maintains it’s perfectly safe.
But Onder of the Onder Law Firm in suburban St Louis, which represented plaintiffs in all three St Louis cases, cited other research that began connecting talcum powder to ovarian cancer in the 1970s.
He said case studies have indicated that women who regularly use talc on their genital area face up to a 40 per cent higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Onder has accused Johnson & Johnson of marketing toward overweight women, blacks and Hispanics – the very same women most at risk for ovarian cancer, he said.
Factors known to increase a women’s risk of ovarian cancer include age, obesity, use of estrogen therapy after menopause, not having any children, certain genetic mutations and personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies genital use of talc as ‘possibly carcinogenic’. The National Toxicology Program, made up of parts of several different government agencies, has not fully reviewed talc.
Talc is a mineral that is mined from deposits around the world, including the US. The softest of minerals, it’s crushed into a white powder.
It’s been widely used in cosmetics and other personal care products to absorb moisture since at least 1894, when Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder was launched. But it’s mainly used in a variety of other products, including paint and plastics.
The two St Louis verdicts were the first talcum powder cases in which money was awarded. A federal jury in 2013 sided with another South Dakota woman, but it ordered no damages, a spokeswoman for Onder’s firm said.
Johnson & Johnson has been targeted before by health and consumer groups over ingredients in its products, including Johnson’s No More Tears baby shampoo. The company agreed in 2012 to eliminate 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, both considered probable carcinogens, from all products by 2015.