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May 1, 2020

Ovarian cancer claims against J&J can move forward, Court rules

Thousands of women who allege Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based baby powder caused their ovarian cancer can move forward with claims against the company, a federal judge ruled on April 27.

More than 16,000 claims comprise the national multidistrict litigation, which alleges J&J’s talcum, or baby powder contains asbestos, which is known to cause cancer in people.

Talcum powder experts allowed for trial       

U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson of New Jersey heard expert testimony from both the plaintiffs and defense in recent months. J&J asked the Court to bar all plaintiffs’ experts from testifying at trial, a move that would effectively end the litigation. After reviewing testimony from both sides, Judge Wolfson ruled that plaintiffs’ experts can testify at trial that studies have shown talc-based products can cause cancer, potentially due to asbestos, fibrous talc or heavy metal contamination. Judge Wolfson excluded testimony that inhaling talcum powder could cause ovarian cancer, ruling instead that experts’ testimony must be relevant to the use of talcum powder on the genitals on perineal area.

Motley Rice attorneys Dan Lapinski and Carmen Scott play leadership roles in the litigation as members of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee. Additionally, Dan serves as co-chair of the Law & Briefing Committee and helped lead the argument before the Court during the hearings. The firm’s attorneys also played a leadership role in shaping the plaintiffs’ arguments that contributed to the Court’s decision to allow the experts’ testimony.

“The evidence in this case shows that Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder may cause ovarian cancer. We also have reason to believe the company knew for decades that its product was dangerous, but chose to do nothing and say nothing to warn consumers,” said Lapinski. “We believe  this information is vital to present a full picture and determine the extent of Johnson & Johnson’s culpability at trial, and we’re pleased the Court’s ruling will allow expert testimony to be heard. The women who allege they had their lives uprooted due to Johnson & Johnson’s negligence deserve to have their say at trial. We’re pleased that this ruling brings us one step closer toward justice.”   

Talc, the softest mineral in the world, is a common ingredient found in powders, makeup and other cosmetic products. Since talc is derived from the earth, however, it may be contaminated with trace amounts of deadly asbestos, heavy metals and fibrous talc. Even though the FDA considers it unacceptable for cosmetic grade talc to be contaminated with asbestos, the Agency has no standards in place to require testing, review or approval of these cosmetic products before they are sold to consumers. Talcum powder manufacturers, like J&J, essentially are subject to no safety analysis for these products that are widely marketed to be used directly on people’s bodies..

Studies have found that the use of talc-based powders on the genitals and perineal area for personal hygiene may increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

Separate claims have also been filed in state courts alleging asbestos-contaminated baby powder caused mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer targeting the lungs, chest wall and abdomen. Victims are often diagnosed years, or even decades, after they were originally exposed to asbestos.

Johnson & Johnson recalled a single lot of its baby powder in October 2019 after the FDA announced a sample tested positive for asbestos. The announcement prompted major U.S. retailers Walmart, CVS, Rite Aid and Target to remove all 22-ounce bottles of J&J Baby Powder due to possible asbestos contamination. Prior to the results of the FDA’s test being made public, J&J repeatedly denied accusations that its baby powder products contained toxic asbestos mineral fibers.

Motley Rice attorneys have fought for decades for victims of harmful women’s medical, health and beauty products, and for victims of asbestos exposure and their loved ones. If you or a loved one developed ovarian cancer after using a talc-based product on the perineal area, you may contact attorneys Daniel Lapinski and Carmen Scott by email or call 1.800.768.4026.

If you or a loved one developed mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease after being exposed to Johnson & Johnson baby powder, you may contact Motley Rice attorneys Christopher Swett or Nate Finch by email or call 1.800.768.4026.

Read more on the link between talc and asbestos on the Motley Rice Law Blog: