Johnson & Johnson loses $417M verdict in talc powder suit

By Allen Cone  |  Updated Aug. 22, 2017 at 1:42 AM
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Aug. 21 (UPI) -- A Los Angeles jury on Monday awarded $417 million to a 62-year-old women who blames the company's talc powder on her ovarian cancer.

J&J has lost four smaller jury verdicts in St. Louis for a total of $300 million, including $110 million to a 62-year-old Virginian woman in May, and it faces 5,500 claims in U.S. courts.

The Los Angeles Superior Court jury determined the world's largest healthcare company failed to warn Eva Echeverria and other woman about the dangers of the powder. Studies had linked its baby powder and Shower to Shower talc products to cancer.

Echeverria, who started using talc powder product when she was 11, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. A surgeon removed a softball-sized tumor.

Echeverria said in a video deposition she stopped using the power in 2016 when she saw a news story about a woman with ovarian cancer who had also used the product.

Echeverria is now near death and was unable to attend the trial, one of her attorneys said.

Jurors, after two days of deliberations, awarded Echeverria $70 million in compensatory damages and $347 million in punitive damages.

The company is appealing the verdict as well as the four previous ones," said spokeswoman Carol Goodrich. "We are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson's Baby Powder,'' she said. "We are preparing for additional trials in the U.S. and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson's Baby Powder."

In June, the company succeeded in halting a trial in St. Louis after the U.S. Supreme Court made it more difficult for out-of-state plaintiffs to join lawsuits in state courts that support their claims.

Mark Robinson, a lawyer for plaintiff Eva Echeverria, said J&J needs to start warning women immediately about the risks of its baby powder.

"J&J needs to see they not only have verdicts against them in St. Louis, they now also have them in Los Angeles," Robinson said. "There's a problem all over the country with women using talcum powder on daily basis for 10, 20, 30, 40 years."

The company's lawyers argued that various scientific studies as well as federal agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, didn't determine talc products are carcinogenic.

Talcum powder is made from talc, a mineral mainly containing magnesium, silicon and oxygen. As a powder, it absorbs moisture well and helps cut down on friction.

Talcum powder was used in the 19th century to soothe skin irritation from medicated plasters, and Johnson's Baby Powder debuted in 1893, according to the company website.

At one time, the product was advertised with the jingle, "A sprinkle a day helps keep the odor away."

Monday's verdict is the third-largest jury award in the United States in 2017, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. ZeniMax Media Inc. was awarded $500 million for its claim that the virtual reality headset maker acquired by Facebook Inc., Oculus, used stolen code.

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