Getting to Know the First Talcum Powder Whistleblower

Talcum powder lawsuit filed in Los Angeles

A truly interesting article in Lawyers and Settlements talks about the very first talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuit case that paved the way for others today. It was the case filed by Diane Berg back in 2009. Johnson & Johnson at the time offered her a settlement, but she refused and wound up with nothing. Berg had developed ovarian cancer when was 49. She had used the company’s talcum powder products for most of her life.

She Wanted the World to Know

Berg had to undergo a full hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) and six months of chemotherapy. In 2013, four years after she filed her lawsuit, the pharmaceutical giant offered Berg $1.3 million to settle, but only if she kept it quiet. Berg refused to do so becoming a whistleblower against J & J. Last year she told the New York Post that her lawsuit was never about the money.

She wanted to the world to know that for 40 years, Johnson & Johnson knew about the link between ovarian cancer and their powder containing talc, but chose to hide it from consumers. In Berg’s case, a federal jury found that J & J’s talcum powder was linked to ovarian cancer, but she wasn’t awarded any money.

In South Dakota where Berg is from, there needs to be a unanimous verdict on whether any compensation is warranted. Nonetheless, the jury’s decision took Berg by surprise. Had her trial taken place in Missouri, the outcome might have been a lot different. Juries in that state last year awarded millions of dollars in damages to three plaintiffs, including one from California who all accused J & J of hiding the link between talc and ovarian cancer from consumers.

Several Studies Pointed to Links

Scientific research and evidence pointing to links between talc and ovarian cancer links back nearly four decades. The first published report in 1971 stated that regular use of talc on a woman’s genitals increased the risk of ovarian cancer by 30 percent. Several other subsequent reports were published including as recently as January when researchers at The Tisch Cancer Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital determined that talc use increased ovarian cancer risk by 20 percent.

As plaintiffs’ attorneys have been arguing in all these cases, Berg says talcum powder products should come with a warning informing consumers of the risks they would be taking by using them. We salute Berg was leading the way and giving other victims hope for justice and compensation. We hope her efforts will not be in vain and that J&J and other companies will be required to post warnings on their products that are causing much harm and grief.

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