Leigh O’Dell, a lawyer in our firm’s Mass Torts Section, has been selected to serve as Co-Lead Counsel for consolidated multidistrict litigation (MDL) in New Jersey federal court concerning talcum powder’s link to ovarian cancer. Michelle Parfitt of Ashcraft & Gerel, a firm based in Washington, D.C., will also serve as Co-Lead Counsel.
The lawsuits allege that Defendant Johnson & Johnson is liable for personal injuries or wrongful deaths that resulted from ovarian or uterine cancer in women who used the company’s talc products for feminine hygiene. More than 60 Plaintiffs in the MDL are ready to make their case based on decades of scientific research linking talc to cancer. The MDL is being tried in the court of Judge Freda L. Wolfson, United Stated District Judge for the District of New Jersey in Trenton. Leigh had this to say:
I feel very honored to serve on behalf of the thousands of women who are suffering and many dying of ovarian cancer as a result of their long-term use of talcum powder. Despite numerous credible scientific studies showing an increased risk of ovarian cancer, Johnson & Johnson has never warned users of their Baby Powder or other talcum-powder based products. Internal documents make clear that J&J and its principal supplier of talc have been aware of the risks of ovarian cancer for many years. Rather than act responsibly and warn consumers, Johnson & Johnson suppressed safety information and actively misled women about the dangers of genital talc use. The company’s conduct is reprehensible, and we look forward to continuing to pursue justice on behalf of these deserving women and their families.
Already this year, three juries have found Johnson & Johnson liable for injuries or wrongful death resulting from the use of its talc-containing products such as Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder for feminine hygiene.
• In February, another jury awarded the family of Jacqueline Fox $72 million, holding Johnson & Johnson liable for her ovarian cancer death. In that verdict, $62 million was punitive damages. The purpose of awarding punitive damages is to punish a company for wrongdoing and to compel it to change its actions.
• On May 2, a jury awarded Gloria Ristesund $55 million, which included $5 million in actual damages and $50 million in punitive damages.
• In October, a jury awarded Plaintiff Deborah Giannecchini $70.075 million after agreeing the products contributed to the development of her ovarian cancer. The verdict included $575,000 in medical damages, $2 million in compensatory damages, and $65 million in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson and $2.5 million in punitive damages against Imerys, which supplies talc to Johnson & Johnson. This was the first jury verdict against Imerys in this litigation.
Three decades of scientific research, including more than 20 well-executed studies, shows that women who regularly use talcum powder for genital hygiene are three times as likely to develop ovarian cancer compared to those who do not. In the U.S., ovarian cancer affects about 21,000 women a year and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among women. One medical expert calculates that this use of talcum powder leads to nearly 45 percent of the new ovarian cancer cases reported annually. Johnson & Johnson has ignored and attempted to discredit these scientific studies for years, and still refuses to provide warning labels on talc-containing products about the potential risks linking talc and ovarian cancer. When you consider that Imerys, the company that mines the talc, places a cancer warning label on the containers delivered to J&J, it is shameful that J&J still refuses to warn the ultimate user – women.
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