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Earlier this week, on August 21, 2017, a Los Angeles jury awarded plaintiff Eva Echeverria $417 million in a verdict against Johnson & Johnson, finding the company responsible for failing to warn the 63-year-old woman about the risks of using its talcum products.
Echeverria was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. While a surgeon was able to remove a softball-sized tumor from her body, Echeverria is still near death and was unable to attend the trial. Instead, her attorneys played a video-recorded testimony for the jury. Echeverria testified she had been using Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder since she was 11 years old until just last year when she saw a news story about a woman with ovarian cancer who had also used the powder.
Talcum powder is one of the company’s best-known products. Echeverria stated if the company had put a warning on the product regarding its connection to cancer development, she would have stopped using it. Johnson & Johnson earned a profit of $16.5 billion in 2016 alone.
After two days of deliberating, the jurors awarded $70 million in compensatory damages and $343 million in punitive damages to Echeverria. The jury found there was a connection between the development of her ovarian cancer and her use of the baby powder.
This verdict is the largest award so far in a collection of suits claiming the company’s powder caused ovarian cancer. More than 300 lawsuits are pending in California, and more than 4,500 claims are pending in the rest of the country. All of them claim the healthcare company ignored studies linking its Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products to cancer.
Johnson & Johnson’s attorneys argued various scientific studies as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had not found that talc products are carcinogenic (cause cancer). Among the studies, they cited in the case was one in 2000 by researchers at Harvard University. In a National Nurses Health Study of more than 121,000 women, including 78,630 who said they had used talc, only 307 developed ovarian cancer. The researchers concluded there was no overall connection between talc use and epithelial ovarian cancer, though they did conclude there was a modest elevation in risk for one variety of the illness. That disease, invasive serous ovarian cancer, is the one Echeverria developed.
Echeverria’s lawyers argued women all over the country trusted the company to refrain from marketing an unsafe product, only to learn later Johnson & Johnson had known about other research linking talc and cancer. They cited a 1982 study that shows women who used talc on their genitals were at a 92% increased risk for ovarian cancer. Daniel W. Cramer, the lead researcher on the study later advised the company to put a warning label on the product.
According to the National Cancer Institute, ovarian cancer makes up about 1.3% of all new cancer cases in the United States. However, it is the 8th-most common cancer and the 5th-leading cause of cancer-related death among women. Fewer than half of all patients live past 5 years after diagnosis.
Johnson & Johnson claims it will appeal the verdict because the company is “guided by science” that supports their assertion the talc is safe. However, the conclusion of this case is another in the long history of product liability litigation involving huge industries or corporate giants. In St. Louis, juries awarded at least 4 plaintiffs a total of $307.5 million to plaintiffs who made similar claims.
If you or a loved one have been harmed by a product you believed to be safe, don’t hesitate to call The Ferraro Law Firm. Our firm has been helping people fight for their rights to compensation since 1985. We are dedicated to representing the victims of personal injury and their loved ones in negotiations or in court against companies who value their profit margin over human lives. Our skilled Florida product liability attorneys also have a nationwide reputation for handling malignant mesothelioma, environmental toxic tort, and asbestos lawsuits. Wherever you are in the country, we can represent you. Our firm has recovered billions of dollars for our clients in verdicts and settlements. Let us see what we can do for you and your family.