What do women need to know about Johnson & Johnson talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits?

Johnson & Johnson has come under intense legal scrutiny lately over sales and marketing of its talc-based baby powder products. Several individual lawsuits alleging a link to ovarian cancer have resulted in juries awarding nearly $200 million in damages to injured women and their families. Many more lawsuits are currently pending, as hundreds of sick and frustrated women and their families seek compensation for their losses.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Johnson & Johnson talcum powder lawsuits. If you have questions about your own legal situation regarding the link between your ovarian cancer and J&J talcum powder products, contact our office today for a free case consultation.

QUESTION: What is talc or talcum powder?

ANSWER: Talcum powder is a product that’s made from finely-ground talc, a soft mineral that’s mined from the earth. It is sold as a cosmetic product for babies, children, and adults, frequently with added ingredients and fragrances. Talcum powder is often used to absorb moisture and reduce friction, prevent chafing, protect against rashes, and keep the skin dry and clean. It may also be used to freshen clothing, or to prevent or decrease body odor in undergarments or footwear.

Until recently, talcum powder was used as a dry lubricant on the inside of latex surgical and exam gloves, but the Food and Drug Administration banned this usage of talc in 2016.

QUESTION: What products contain talcum powder?

ANSWER: Talcum powder is sold in many forms, primarily as a cosmetic. Products that contain talc may be labeled as baby powder, diaper rash powder, facial powder, body powder, or foot powder. It is also found in some types of facial cosmetics, including eye shadow, foundation, and blush. Not all brands or formulations of these types of products contain talc, though, and many manufacturers are now choosing to use replace talcum powder with other ingredients, such as corn starch.

QUESTION: Are there any known health risks of talcum powder?

ANSWER: Yes. Multiple potential health hazards have been linked with exposure to talcum powder.

One serious concern is whether talcum powder increases the risk of ovarian cancer when used for feminine hygiene, as it is often found in products targeted at women. The first study indicating a potential link ovarian cancer and talc was performed in 1971, and multiple scientific studies since have indicated as much as a 30 percent increase in risk when talc is applied to the female genital region. However, some studies have also shown different results, including studies sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, so research into the issue is currently ongoing.

In the past, talcum powder has also been investigated for its link to lung cancer when inhaled, as well a chronic lung inflammation called “talcosis.”

QUESTION: What is ovarian cancer?

ANSWER: Ovarian cancer is a form of malignant cell growth that occurs in the ovaries. It is a life-threatening disease. Ovarian cancer is the most frequent cancer of the female reproductive system, and is sometimes called “the silent killer,” as symptoms may not show until it’s spread throughout the body and become untreatable.

The lifetime risk of a woman developing ovarian cancer is about one in seventy-five, while the lifetime risk of dying from ovarian cancer is about one in one hundred.

QUESTION: What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?

ANSWER: Many of the early symptoms of ovarian cancer are similar to common illnesses, making it difficult to detect. Some of the early signs may include the following:

  • Lower abdominal or belly pain
  • Abnormal menstruation
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Back pain
  • Lack of appetite or difficulty eating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
  • Frequent or strong urges to urinate

QUESTION: How does talcum powder increase the risk of ovarian cancer?

ANSWER: For years, cosmetics companies suggested that women should sprinkle talcum powder in their undergarments to absorb moisture and reduce unwanted odors. Talc has also been used in feminine hygiene and birth control products, including tampons, sanitary napkins (including pads and pantyliners), diaphragms, and other products.

When used in this way, it is believed that talc particles can enter the vagina and travel through the reproductive system, eventually embedding in the ovaries. Once in the ovaries, the particles may lead to the development of cancerous cells.

QUESTION: Why is Johnson & Johnson being targeted for talcum powder lawsuits?

ANSWER: Talcum powder is available from many different manufacturers around the globe, but Johnson & Johnson is one of the oldest and largest producers of talcum powder products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower.

In previous lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson has been found liable not only for knowing that talc may cause ovarian cancer and failing to warn women, but also for conspiracy to hide that information from consumers.

QUESTION: Why hasn’t the Food and Drug Administration done anything about talcum powder?

ANSWER: By law, the FDA does not review cosmetic products, leaving the market mostly unregulated. The agency only requires proper labeling and that the product be “safe under labeled or customary conditions of use.”

The FDA does take action to protect consumers when a product is found to be dangerous, but the agency requires significant scientific data before moving to restrict the sale of a product. Research into the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer is still ongoing.

QUESTION: Have there been any successful talcum powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson?

ANSWER: Yes. One of the earliest talcum powder lawsuits was in 2013, when a South Dakota woman who suffered ovarian cancer sued J&J for negligence. The jury agreed that talcum powder was a factor in causing the cancer, yet declined to award the woman any damages even though it ruled in her favor. After the South Dakota case, three women stepped forward and pressed their own lawsuits against J&J, and the juries in each case found J&J liable for negligence to a combined total of $197 million dollars.

QUESTION: What legal claims have been made against Johnson & Johnson?

ANSWER: In the past, J&J has been found liable for negligence in multiple civil lawsuits, as well as failure to disclose the risks of their products to consumers.

In one of three early cases against J&J, lawyers discovered an internal communication from the company, demonstrating that Johnson & Johnson employees knew both about the link with ovarian cancer and also that common knowledge of a talc–cancer link could hurt the company’s public image. In this particular lawsuit, J&J was found liable of negligence, failure to inform consumers of the risks of their products, and conspiracy. Though the woman passed away during the case, her son took up the litigation, and the jury awarded her surviving family $72 million dollars.

QUESTION: Have any other lawsuits been filed against Johnson & Johnson?

ANSWER: Over 1,400 additional personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits are pending against Johnson & Johnson over the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer on the state and federal level.

So many federal lawsuits have been filed that a “multi-district litigation” (MDL) has been established in New Jersey to centralize many of these cases in front of a federal judge and speed up the legal process. Ten potential cases will be chosen as “bellwether” trials in March 2017, with final selection of two that will proceed to trial by June. The outcome of the bellwether trials will guide how the court will proceed with the rest of the lawsuits.

QUESTION: Who can file an ovarian cancer claim against Johnson & Johnson?

ANSWER: Women who have suffered from a diagnosis of ovarian cancer or the surviving family of a woman who has passed away due to ovarian cancer may be eligible to make a claim if the victim had a history of using talcum powder for feminine hygiene. This includes either applying talc products directly to the perineal area, or indirect use from feminine care products that contain talc.

QUESTION: What should I do if I think that talcum powder caused my cancer?

ANSWER: Start gathering information together about your talcum powder usage, including specific products and brand names, how often you used the products, and your diagnosis and medical treatment history. Then contact a personal injury attorney at Wayne Wright with experience fighting against big companies to help you with your case. We offer a free initial consultation about your case, and we charge you only if your case results in a financial recovery.

QUESTION: What kind of damages can I recover by filing a talcum powder lawsuit?

ANSWER: A talcum powder lawsuit is a personal injury case, in which you may seek financial recovery for your all of your related medical bills both old and new, rehabilitation costs, lost wages from time spent unable to work, the loss of your earning capacity if you continue to be unable to work, pain and suffering, and more.

QUESTION: How long will it take to resolve my talcum powder lawsuit?

ANSWER: The length of time that any individual lawsuit takes varies, and is based on the facts of the case, the evidence that’s available, the court’s schedule, and many other factors. Sometimes, settlement agreements can be reached relatively quickly, but other times, a trial is necessary. Trials may take just a few days, or they can easily extend to weeks, months, or longer depending on the situation. If you’re concerned that time is an issue, contact us so that we can talk about your specific legal situation.

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