In the wake of the recent $4.69 billion court ruling against Johnson & Johnson over dozens of women claiming to have developed ovarian cancer after years of using the company's talcum powder products, a Louisiana watchdog group says similar cases will likely arise in the future.
On July 12, jurors in St. Louis City Circuit Court deliberated for eight hours before awarding the 22 plaintiffs in the case $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages. Of those who filed claims, six of the women died before the start of the trial, according to the St. Louis Record.
"There is no doubt that this windfall will lead to others bringing similar claims to court, even though there is no reliable scientific evidence to support the plaintiff’s claims that there is a relationship between talc and the development of cancer," Lana Venable, Executive Director for the Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch, told the Louisiana Record.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs cited findings linking talc powder and asbestos to ovarian cancer by a number of noted scientists including Dr. William Longo, a nationally known materials scientist and microscope researcher, and Jacqueline Moline, a New York-based occupational medical specialist and a professor of epidemiology, according to the St. Louis Record article.
Lana Sonnier Venable, executive director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch courtesy of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch
Defense attorneys for Johnson & Johnson presented testimony denying the link between talc powder and ovarian cancer. The defense attorneys claimed the women saw television advertising that convinced them their ovarian cancer had been caused by the use of talc.
"Of interest regarding this plaintiff award is not only the historic amount, but the location in which it was rendered, Venable said. "Last year, the American Tort Reform Foundation put St. Louis at the top of the list in its annual Judicial Hellholes report."
"The report notes that the city has become notorious for “fast trials, favorable rulings and big awards,” Venable continued. "In fact, four of the top six U.S. product liability verdicts came out of St. Louis Circuit Court. It’s unfortunate that Louisiana also maintains a reputation as a litigious state, with a number seven ranking in the same report."
Johnson & Johnson also faces approximately 9,000 other cases nationwide over its talc powder products.