Posted by Nicholas Lillig.
On October 20th, a judge tossed out a $417 million jury award to a woman who claimed that she developed ovarian cancer by using Johnson & Johnson talcum-based powder for feminine hygiene. The lawsuit is continuing even after the woman, Eva Echeverria, has died. Her attorney released a statement saying, “We will continue to fight on behalf of all women who have been impacted by this dangerous product.” Under clear scrutiny for their product, Johnson & Johnson has most recently been hit with a multimillion-dollar jury verdict. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Maren Nelson granted the company’s request for a new trial, saying there were errors and jury misconduct in the previous trial that ended with the award two months ago.” She also ruled that there was not enough convincing evidence that Johnson & Johnson acted with malice and that the award for the damages was far too excessive. This was the fourth time that Johnson & Johnson had to go to court in order to address this matter.
The product, Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder, uses a talcum based powder in which is used to treat diaper rashes. It is commonly found in soap, antiperspirant, toothpaste, makeup and even bath bombs. Many people use this powder to fight inflammation on their skin or for personal hygiene. The reason as to why this company is brought under the microscope is to debate whether the talc based powder can cause ovarian cancer in women. There is evidence on both sides of the argument for how it can effectively cause ovarian cancer. A report that was released in May of 2016 determined that 63 percent of women with ovarian cancer had used talc. Another previous study reports, “In 1971, four OB/GYNs found talc particles in more than 75 percent of the ovarian tumors they investigated”. Scientific studies and the juries involved point to yes, this product is liable to cause ovarian cancer. Evidence against the case states that the exact relationship is unclear as tumors can develop regardless of whether talc is applied in the situation.
The issue is that for over 100 years, Johnson & Johnson has been marketing their baby powder to treat diaper rash and as a daily feminine hygiene product. In the most recent cases, juries are pointing towards the evidence that it does cause ovarian cancer. Eva Echeverria and her attorney believe Johnson & Johnson failed to warn the public about “talcum powders potential cancer risks”. A spokeswoman for J&J said, “Ovarian cancer is a devastating disease – but it is not caused by the cosmetic-grade talc we have used in Johnson’s Baby Powder for decades. The science is clear and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder as we prepare for additional trials in the U.S.” The company has decided that it will continue to fight for their product in further trials.
Nicholas is a finance major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.