A St. Louis court has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay over $70 million to a California woman who developed ovarian cancer after using the company’s talcum powder. The decision came after the third loss for Johnson & Johnson in a series of trials dealing with accusations that the company knew of a connection between use of its product and an increased risk of the disease.
Lawyers for the woman, 62-year-old Deborah Giannecchini, claimed her use of Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder for over 40 years led to the ovarian cancer that has required her to have chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation treatments. Bloomberg notes that her lawyers also claim that she has only a 20 percent chance of surviving past two years from now because of the cancer.
Giannecchini will receive both punitive damages and medical costs; $65 million will come from Johnson & Johnson and $2.5 million will come from Imerys Talc America for punitive damages, and almost $2.5 million will come from Johnson & Johnson for suffering and medical reimbursement. Giannecchini was pleased by the verdict, which she said she had been waiting for.
Jurors noted Johnson & Johnson’s seeming lack of concern. One St. Louis woman who served on the jury suggested that Johnson & Johnson could have added warning labels on products that contained talcum powder, saying that the company just didn’t seem to care.
A spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson confirmed the company would appeal the decision, claiming that the science about talcum powder was on the company’s side. However, Allen Smith, who was Giannecchini’s lawyer, argued during the trial that the company did know about an extensive record of studies showing talc use was connected to increased ovarian cancer rates. Smith claimed the company decided to hunker down in self-protection rather than openly warning consumers of the increased risk. “They knew, and they knew the public was unaware of the risk,” he said. Smith also claimed the company did what it could to avoid government regulation that could have affected its products.
Johnson & Johnson face about 1,700 federal and state lawsuits regarding its Shower-to-Shower and baby powder product lines.