A St. Louis jury has awarded a California woman $70 million in her case against hygiene giant Johnson & Johnson over their baby powder.
Deborah Giannecchini, of Modesto, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012. Her case alleged that it was the result of her use of a talcum powder based product marketed by Johnson & Johnson. The company was subsequently convicted of “negligent conduct” in producing and marketing the product.
Her case is the third that has been tried in St. Louis this year — a jury awarded $72 million in February to the family of an Alabama woman who died of ovarian cancer, and another $55 million was awarded to a South Dakota cancer survivor in May.
AJC.com reports that attorney Jim Onder, whose law firm tried the case, is pleased with the result:
“We are pleased the jury did the right thing. They once again reaffirmed the need for Johnson & Johnson to warn the public of the ovarian cancer risk associated with its product.”
Onder, of the Onder Law Firm in suburban St. Louis, cited other research that began connecting talcum powder to ovarian cancer in the 1970s. He said case studies have indicated that women who regularly use talc on their genitals face up to a 40 percent higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Onder has accused Johnson & Johnson of marketing toward overweight women, blacks and Hispanics — the very same women most at-risk for ovarian cancer.
But not everyone is convinced that the research is conclusive. The American Cancer Society claims that many of the studies that have been done so far are inconclusive — and that any possible additional risk would likely be small:
“It has been suggested that talcum powder might cause cancer in the ovaries if the powder particles (applied to the genital area or on sanitary napkins, diaphragms, or condoms) were to travel through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to the ovary.
Many studies in women have looked at the possible link between talcum powder and cancer of the ovary. Findings have been mixed, with some studies reporting a slightly increased risk and some reporting no increase.
Many case-control studies have found a small increase in risk. But these types of studies can be biased because they often rely on a person’s memory of talc use many years earlier. Two prospective cohort studies, which would not have the same type of potential bias, have not found an increased risk.”
Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the ruling, according to spokeswoman Carol Goodrich:
“We deeply sympathize with the women and families impacted by ovarian cancer. We will appeal today’s verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder.”
The company is currently facing 1200 individual defendants — in cases that are pending in both state and federal courts — accusing them of ignoring the studies that link their Shower to Shower product to ovarian cancer.
Two cases in New Jersey were thrown out by Atlantic City Judge Nelson Johnson, whose 33-page ruling noted that “the plaintiffs’ experts’ review of the links between talc and cancer suffered from ‘narrowness and shallowness,’ and didn’t provide reliable evidence the substance could cause the disease.”