A Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417million to a terminally ill woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in its iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene.
The lawsuit was brought by Eva Echeverria, of California, who alleged Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately warn consumers about the potential cancer risks of talcum powder.
Echeverria developed ovarian cancer as a ‘proximate result of the unreasonably dangerous and defective nature of talcum powder,’ Echeverria said in her lawsuit.
Echeverria’s attorney, Mark Robinson, said his client hoped the verdict would lead Johnson & Johnson to include additional warnings on its products.
‘Mrs. Echeverria is dying from this ovarian cancer and she said to me all she wanted to do was to help the other women throughout the whole country who have ovarian cancer for using Johnson & Johnson for 20 and 30 years,’ Robinson said.
‘She really didn’t want sympathy,’ he added. ‘She just wanted to get a message out to help these other women.’
Echeverria, 63, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. During the four-week trial, she testified via video that she had used the powder for more than 40 years, beginning at age 11, and would have stopped using it earlier had the product come with a warning label, reported Morningstar.com.
Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said in a statement that the company will appeal the jury’s verdict.
She says while the company sympathizes with those impacted by ovarian cancer, she says science supports the safety of Johnson’s baby powder.
Talcum 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.
A St. Louis, Missouri, jury in May awarded $110.5million to a Virginia woman who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012.
She had blamed her illness on her use for more than 40 years of the company’s talcum powder-containing products.
Besides that case, three other jury trials in St. Louis reached similar outcomes last year – issuing awards of $72million, $70.1million and $55million, for a combined total of $307.6 million.
Goodrich said the company is preparing for additional trials in the US and will continue to defend the product’s safety.
According to Bloomberg, the $417million verdict against Johnson & Johnson is the third-largest jury award in the US so far this year.