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Johnson & Johnson has been inundated with lawsuits concerning its baby powder and the link to ovarian cancer. One Alabama firm said it had 867 cases pending against the health products giant, and over 1,400 plaintiffs had collectively filed 20 lawsuits in St. Louis alone.
It was a St. Louis jury that awarded Lois Slemp over $110 million after connecting her use of Johnson & Johnson's Shower-to-Shower and Baby Powder products to her ovarian cancer. The verdict adds to the $197 million the company was hit with in three verdicts last year.
Slemp told the jury she had used J&J products for 40 years for feminine hygiene. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012 and the cancer has since spread to her liver. Plaintiffs have alleged that the company knew about the risks associated with the baby powder, but hid them from customers. "I trusted Johnson & Johnson," Slemp claimed in her deposition testimony (she was too ill to attend the trial). "Big mistake."
Other plaintiffs have cited a September 1997 internal memo from a Johnson & Johnson medical consultant addressing the alleged link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. Reportedly, the consultant wrote that "anyone who denies" the risk of using hygienic talc and ovarian cancer is "denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary."
Still, Johnson & Johnson has steadfastly supported the safety of its product, has appealed previous verdicts against the company and seems poised to litigate the issue to the furthest extent possible. In a statement released after the most recent verdict, the company asserted it is "preparing for additional trials this year and ... will continue to defend the safety of Johnson's Baby Powder":
"We deeply sympathize with the women and families impacted by ovarian cancer. We will begin the appeals process following today's verdict and believe a jury decision in our favor in St. Louis in March and the dismissal of two cases in New Jersey in September 2016 by a state court judge who ruled that plaintiffs' scientific experts could not adequately support their theories that talcum powder causes ovarian cancer, further highlight the lack of credible scientific evidence behind plaintiffs' allegations."
With so many cases in various stages of litigation, it may be years until they are all resolved.