After seven hours of deliberation, a jury returned a defense verdict for Johnson & Johnson (J&J) in the fourth St. Louis talcum powder trial. Plaintiff Nora Daniels, a 55 year-old woman from Tennessee, had used Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder for over 35 years and was eventually diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013. Ms. Daniels, like more than one thousand other women across the country, alleged that their ovarian cancer was caused by their usage of J&J’s baby powder and that the company should have warned consumers about the link between talc and ovarian cancer.
This trial was the first win for J&J in St. Louis following three trials occurring last year where juries found against the corporate giant and awarded plaintiffs nearly $200 million in damages. In each trial, Plaintiffs have presented the similarities between methods used by J&J and big tobacco in covering up dangers associated with their products. While J&J continues to argue that scientific evidence supports the safety of talc in its products, the discovery process uncovered that J&J has had knowledge of the potential dangers associated with talc since as early as 1982. As mentioned by Ms. Daniels’ attorney during closing arguments, “J&J was aware of more than 30 epidemiological studies tying talc use to an increased ovarian cancer risk over the last three decades.” In response, J&J executives have gone so far as to hire companies to do paid research for them on talc and its connection to ovarian cancer in an attempt to bury all scientific evidence to the contrary.
But that’s not the full extent of J&J’s tactics. Also uncovered during discovery were some disturbing J&J internal marketing documents evidencing tactics centered on using the company’s significant political influence to roll back regulations in order to increase profits. Unfortunately, as we have seen with big tobacco, money can be a strong tool of influence for those who have it – and J&J is by no means short on money. Despite the growing number of lawsuits filed against J&J regarding a multitude of the company’s drugs and medical devices, it still managed to report $71.9 billion in sales for 2016. Businesses of course should endeavor to turn a profit, but that profit, no matter the size, cannot come at the expense of the pain, suffering, and even death of trusting consumers.
Despite this most recent setback, Plaintiffs will continue to charge forward in seeking justice for the women and their families harmed by J&J's talc-based products. The next trial will take place in April. Stay tuned as we update you on the progress of this litigation.