Attorneys presented opening arguments in a jury trial to determine whether the talc in Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder caused a 62-year-old woman’s ovarian cancer.
According to news reports, the plaintiff, Gloria Ristesund, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011 and had her uterus removed after decades of using Johnson’s Baby Powder in her genital area.
She claims in the lawsuit that her cancer was caused by talcum powder in the product, which she says Imerys Talc America supplied and J & J sold. The suit alleges that the companies did so despite knowing talcum powder’s link to ovarian cancer.
The lawsuit said J & J knew of the epidemiological studies linking talc and ovarian cancer for decades, but continued to sell baby powder with talc rather than offer cornstarch-based powder, as other manufacturers did.
Arguments from Both Sides
The plaintiff’s attorney said internal documents would show that J & J implemented a defense strategy to prevent government regulation of talc and ignored pleas from the government to remove talc from its baby powder or warn its customers. The documents show that J & J officials used language like this is “a battle we cannot afford to lose.” The company went out of the way to lobby against talc-related regulations in spite of knowing and understanding the associated cancer risks to consumers, attorneys argued.
An attorney for J & J argued that studies that link ovarian cancer to talc are inconclusive and that “nobody knows” what causes ovarian cancer. Criticizing the studies cited by the plaintiff’s attorney, the defense lawyer highlighted competing for research, which she says, shows there is no link between talc use and ovarian cancer. An attorney for Imerys also said that medical evidence will prove that the plaintiff’s cancer was not caused by talc, but other risk factors such as her age and weight.
This is the second state court lawsuit involving talcum powder ovarian cancer to go to trial. In February, jurors ordered J & J to pay $72 million over the fatal ovarian cancer of a Missouri woman who had used the company’s baby powder for about 40 years. Nearly 1,000 women have filed similar lawsuits nationwide.
As product defect attorneys who represent victims of dangerous and defective products, we hope these talcum powder trials bring out the truth about how Johnson & Johnson handled information about the link between its talcum powder products and the risk of ovarian cancer. We hope the hundreds of women who have filed these product liability lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and Imerys, as well as families of individuals who have lost their lives to ovarian cancer, get the justice and compensation they rightfully deserve.