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Jury Awards California Talcum Powder Victim $70 Million

A jury in St. Louis has awarded about $70 million damages to California resident, Deborah Giannecchini, 62, who filed a lawsuit against talcum powder manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and talc miner, Imerys, alleging that their products caused her ovarian cancer. According to a Bloomberg news report, the jury on Thursday ordered J & J to pay $65 million in punitive damages and 90 percent of about $2.5 million for medical costs, pain and suffering. Co-defendant Imerys Talc America, was hit with $2.5 million in punitive damages. The jury deliberated for just three hours before delivering the verdict.

Third Large Verdict in Talc Cases

Giannecchini alleged that she had used Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder for feminine hygiene purposes for more than four decades until her diagnosis with ovarian cancer three years ago, her lawyers said. Her attorneys also said she has an 80 percent chance of dying in the next two years and that she has undergone intensive treatment including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

This is Johnson & Johnson’s third straight loss in product liability cases relating to its talcum powder products. This decision follows verdicts of $72 million and $55 million against the company earlier this year, both of which are being appealed by J & J. The company has about 1,700 pending lawsuits from women who allege that their ovarian cancer was caused from long-term talc use.

“It Seemed Like They Didn’t Care”

The plaintiff, Giannecchini, who testified before the jury despite being extremely frail and needing help to get to the stand, appeared overwhelmed by the verdict, Bloomberg reports. She told the media: “I’ve waited a long time for this. I’ve wanted this so badly.” Giannecchini testified how she was lured by J & J’s catchy TV commercials to use its Baby Powder and other talc products for feminine hygiene purposes. She said had she been warned by her doctors or the manufacturer, she would not have risked her health and her life by using these dangerous products.

Her lawyers were able to convince the jury that J & J continued to manufacture and sell these products despite being aware of several studies that had established the link between talc use and ovarian cancer. But J & J has been refuting those studies during these trials, arguments that juries are apparently not buying. One juror interviewed by Bloomberg said she felt J & J should have warned consumers so they could decide whether or not to use the products. This was the juror’s takeaway from the evidence she was presented with at the trial: “It seemed like Johnson & Johnson didn’t pay attention. It seemed like they didn’t care.”

That quote from the juror basically sums up Johnson & Johnson’s attitude to consumer safety, said Newport Beach product defect lawyer Brian Chase, senior partner at the personal injury law firm of Bisnar Chase.

“Johnson & Johnson ignored more than 30 years worth of studies, which clearly showed this deadly link between talc and ovarian cancer,” he said. “And yet, they chose not only to continue to sell the products without a warning label, but to aggressively market these products to women. We are pleased that these plaintiffs and their families are getting their day in court.”

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