Two large verdicts awarded to the families of women who used Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products and died of ovarian cancer were recently overturned. This is a big win for the company but a major blow to the families who lost their loved ones to cancer. Evidence that long-term talcum powder use can lead to cancer has helped cases like these end in record settlements, but now judges are throwing out the verdicts for various reasons.
Huge Settlements for Ovarian Cancer
Most recently overturned was the record-setting $417 million settlement awarded by a jury to the family of Eva Echeverria. She died just a month after the award was given. Having used Johnson & Johnson talcum powder since the age of 11, Echeverria was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her 50s. In her case her lawyers claimed that the company was aware of the risks of cancer with talcum powder use and hid that information from consumers.
In the other case, a $72 million award was given to the family of Jacqueline Fox. She died of ovarian cancer after decades of use of Baby Powder. She died just four months before the trial began, at the age of 62. Both of these awards were given by the juries in the trial, in California in the case of Echeverria and in Missouri in the case of Fox.
The Fox jury-awarded $72 million was thrown out by an appeals court in Missouri as a result of a recent Supreme Court decision. The decision found that cases like these could only be filed in the state where the corporation is located—New Jersey in the case of Johnson & Johnson—or in the state in which the harm occurred. Fox’s case included 65 plaintiffs, only two of whom were from Missouri.
In California, the $417 million awarded to the Echeverria family was thrown out by a judge for a different reason. This was the largest award yet in a talcum powder case. As soon it was awarded, Johnson & Johnson announced it would be appealing. The judge listed several reasons for overturning the jury award: insufficient evidence that the talcum powder was a probable cause for the cancer, jury misconduct, erroneous rulings, and that the punitive and compensatory damages were excessive.
Johnson & Johnson has recently suffered multiple losses like these in cases of plaintiffs claiming that Baby Powder and other products caused their cancers. The awards the company has been ordered to pay have totaled nearly $1 billion. Now, with these recent rejections of awards, the company may be able to reverse most of the damages it was expected to pay. This is especially true in cases like Fox’s, in which the plaintiff’s trial was not conducted in the appropriate state.
There is real and compelling evidence from research that there is a strong link between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer. One study included more than 300,000 women and others have found talc particles in the tumors of women with ovarian cancer. The evidence is there and many women and their families have suffered because they thought they were using a safe product. How women and families will be compensated in the future remains to be seen, but recently the decisions have not favored the victims.