Judge Overturns Verdict in $417 Million Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Case

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Image via Huffington Post Photo by REUTERS -- Lucas Jackson

Earlier this year, a California woman by the name of Eva Echeverria was awarded $417 million after convincing a jury that her terminal cancer was linked to the use of Johnson & Johnson baby powder.

The jury decided that Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately warn consumers about the increased risk of ovarian cancer caused by Johnson’s talc-based baby powder and their shower-to-shower products. They awarded Echeverria $70 million in compensatory damages and $347 million in punitive damages.

However, On Friday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maren Nelson overturned the jury’s decision and granted Johnson & Johnson a new trial.

According to Nelson, there was an “insufficiency of the evidence as to the causation as to both defendants.” She also ruled that there was an error in law occurring at trial and misconduct of the jury, which led to excessive damages.

Carol Goodrich, a spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson, said the company is pleased with Judge Nelson’s ruling. Additionally, Goodrich said there is no connection between the companies talc-based products and they have science to back it up.

“We are pleased with Judge Maren Nelson’s ruling. 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,” Goodrich said. “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.”

However, the debate surrounding talc and its relation to ovarian cancer has troubled scientists for many years. Scientifically there’s still no definitive proof that talc usage may cause ovarian cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, classifies the genital use of talc-based body powder as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not list talc as an ovarian cancer risk.

Furthermore, According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) talc is considered a cosmetic and thus does not have to undergo a review by the FDA. That is why Johnson & Johnson has no legal obligation to put warning labels on their products.

Some talc-based powders carry a warning label that mentions the possible risk of ovarian cancer after frequent application in the female genital area. Several talc-based powders do not.

Johnson & Johnson still has to deal with several other cases surrounding talc powder and ovarian cancer. On Tuesday, an Alabama judge ruled in favor of Johnson & Johnson, overturning a $72 million judgment that was awarded back in February 2016.

Additionally, a case in Missouri was scheduled to start on October 16, but the state’s Supreme Court issued a temporary stay. The circuit court will have to prove that it is the right jurisdiction to hear the case.

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