There are many active lawsuits in the United States seeking relief for the asbestos content of talcum powder, which has been linked to various illnesses, such as ovarian cancer. Talcum is a popular ingredient in everyday items, especially baby powder and certain beauty products. Makers of Talcum Powder knew about the risks associated with the level of asbestos in their products and failed to provide a warning to their consumers. One of the leading companies subject to the lawsuits is Johnson & Johnson, a brand known for its medical devices, pharmaceuticals, household goods, and consumer products.
In October 2019, Johnson & Johnson voluntarily recalled the baby powder after the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted a test on the talcum powder used in its products. From that test, the FDA found solid evidence of chrysotile asbestos in the powder. The company discontinued its iconic baby powder in 2020 after encountering about 38,000 lawsuits claiming its talcum powders, which contained asbestos, caused cancer to the consumer.
Is there a talcum powder lawsuit?
Yes, there are many talcum powder lawsuits. The first lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson began in 2009 and ended in 2013. Deane Berg, a 49-year-old physician's assistant, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006. The company offered Berg $1.3 million as part of a confidential settlement. As of July 15, 2022, there are approximately 37,514 multidistrict litigation ("MDL") lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson related to its talcum powder and company practices. To avoid the uncertainty of the financial impact of these litigations, Johnson & Johnson engaged in a corporate restructuring in an attempt to spin off its liabilities into a separate company.
The new company then declared bankruptcy to limit claimants' ability to recover for their injuries. Fortunately, the lower Court and an appellate Court saw through these questionable tactics and rejected the attempt to consolidate these litigations in bankruptcy Court. However, Johnson & Johnson filed a bankruptcy appeal — as recently as 2022 — as more and more victims seek reasonable compensation to resolve their lawsuits.
Regardless of the outcome, Johnson & Johnson has spent nearly a billion dollars in legal fees, payouts, and settlements to victims since 2009 because of these lawsuits.
Talcum powder linked to ovarian cancer
Many studies and reports have shown the possible link between people using talcum powder in their genital areas or breathing in the particles to the development of ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. The earliest lawsuits were filed between 2009 and 2013, with the latest cases being brought in 2022 and 2023, which are still awaiting to be heard by a Court as to whether they may proceed against, or will be forced to settle with, Johnson & Johnson. There have been multiple studies since 1971 proving the link between using talcum powder on the genital area and getting ovarian cancer later in life.
Allegedly, Johnson & Johnson has known about the link between cancer-causing agents in its talc-based products since 1982. From 1982 on, Johnson & Johnson has made little to no efforts to limit the asbestos content in their products or place warning labels or publish statements about the potential danger to users of talcum powder. Even though many people have come forward and filed lawsuits against the company, Johnson & Johnson continues to claim that their talcum powder is safe to use.
The company claims they've discontinued the product due to perception rather than to its possible link to ovarian or other cancers despite the correlation shown in several studies.
2016 Giannecchini vs. Johnson & Johnson
In the 2016 St. Louis Circuit Court case, Giannecchini versus Johnson & Johnson, the Court awarded Deborah Giannecchini $70.075 million, which included $575,000 in medical damages and $2 million in compensatory damages. She sued Johnson & Johnson over their talcum powder having asbestos after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. This Court case would also be the first time the jury found the Johnson & Johnson talcum powder supplier, Imerys, liable for the damages encountered through consumer use.
Giannecchini had used Johnson & Johnson's baby powder for over 40 years as part of her feminine hygiene routine. When she was 59 years old, she was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer. During her time battling cancer, she underwent many surgeries and chemotherapy sessions.
A 2017 study
A 2017 study published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention stated that it found a link between those who use talcum powder in their genital areas and ovarian cancer. Although the study claimed it was a weak and inconsistent link, it was still enough to raise concern. The specifics of the study included 24 case-control studies in three different cohorts after an organized search in Medline, Embase, and Scopus.
Those who conducted this meta-analysis used a random effect model to calculate the estimates between people using talc-based products and the development of ovarian cancer. They accounted for publication bias and heterogeneity during the research. At the end of the study, the journal admitted that there were issues with differences between the studies, which may have affected the results, but overall, researchers found a statistically significant association between the use of talcum powder in genital areas and ovarian cancer.
Senator Edward Markey asks the FDA to investigate asbestos and baby powder products
Edward Markey, a United States Senate Environment and Public Works Committee member, asked the FDA to investigate the theories of asbestos in baby powder products on Dec. 14, 2018. The investigation was supposed to determine if Johnson & Johnson knew about the alleged asbestos in the talcum powder and continued to sell the product without providing warning labels. Eventually, the FDA found chrysotile asbestos in the brand's talc-based powder, but no formal findings or reports concerning Johnson & Johnson's knowledge or culpability have been issued by the FDA.
A 2018 study
This study from 2018, published in Epidemiology, discovered a consistent link between using talcum baby powder in the genital area and developing ovarian cancer. Researchers were inspired to conduct this study based on the theories linking the two ideas and wanting to know for sure. The 2018 study differs from the 2017 study because it found consistent links between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer.
With this data, there's at least an apparent increased risk of developing ovarian cancer for individuals who use or have used this product often. In summary, this study used six electronic databases and an observational study of 50 participants with cases of ovarian cancer. During the study, the researchers spoke with the participants to analyze the potential link between their cancer and the use of talcum powder in the past.
Specifically, the researchers focused on the type of ovarian cancer, such as epithelial ovarian carcinomas, germ cell tumors, and stromal cell tumors, because each type has its own characteristics and traits that may allow the researchers to develop a correlation. Then, they asked the participants about their usage of talcum-based products. They asked the individuals if they used it in their lifetime and, if so, was it incorporated into their daily routine for more than 10 years. Other follow-up questions about their talcum powder usage included an estimate of their lifetime usage and if they used diaphragms or sanitary napkins.
After the questions, the researchers performed a subcategory analysis of the study design and population. Overall, the case reviewed 13,421 cases with three cohort studies, which were 890 cases and 181,860 person-years. The group found consistent outcomes showing the correlating results of people using talcum powder and increasing their risk of developing ovarian cancer. In terms of which type of ovarian cancer increases in risk with talcum powder, the study found an increase in serous endometrioid.
St. Louis jury awards nearly $4.7 billion in baby powder lawsuit
In St. Louis in 2018, a Court jury awarded nearly $4.7 billion in the baby powder lawsuit to 22 women and their families after they filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, claiming the brand's talcum powder has asbestos that led to their ovarian cancer. The $4.7 billion was awarded to the women after they received $550 million in compensation money from enduring a six-week St. Louis Circuit Court trial.
Although this lawsuit was a win for the women who were victims of the product, Johnson & Johnson claimed an unfair trial because the women sued the brand in Missouri when a majority of them didn't live in the state. Johnson & Johnson said they would appeal, which they had done several times when victims won their cases. The brand continued to stand by its claim that there is no asbestos in its products and that the talcum powder is safe to use without increasing the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
The lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Mark Lanier, reacted to the company's appeal and published a statement saying Johnson & Johnson allegedly knew about the asbestos in its baby powders and other products for about 40 years at that time. During the trial, some medical experts were called to testify against the brand. The medical professionals explained that there were research reports, studies, and evidence that proved there was cancer-causing asbestos in the Johnson & Johnson talcum powder. Additionally, the plaintiffs' lawyers would go on to explain that there were asbestos particles in the uterus lining of the women.
By the time of this Court case, the company had already been sued by about 9,000 women who claimed the brand's products were the cause of their ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. Six of the 22 women involved in this case had died from the ovarian cancer they developed, which was linked to their decades-long use of baby powder. One woman in the lawsuit said she joined because people need to know what's in the product. After all, people are using it on their infants, which means babies breathe those particles into their lungs.
Projected talcum powder settlement amounts
It's possible for the settlement amounts to vary in the talcum powder lawsuit based on the facts and circumstances in each case. However, as of recently, approximately 1,000 lawsuits involving talcum powder and ovarian cancer were settled for $100 million by Johnson & Johnson and plaintiffs' lawyers. Additionally, Johnson & Johnson has already set aside about $4 billion for litigation costs, which includes all the costs, fees, and other expenses a company gets during litigation.
There can be many factors that go into projecting settlement amounts, including:
One factor that influences settlement amount is a person's disease severity. If a person is actively fighting or has fought against a type of cancer that might be linked to talcum powder usage, they may earn a higher settlement.
An individual seeking a settlement because of their talcum powder use in the past may bring medical bills as proof of their suffering. For example, if a person has large medical bills or high projected future medical costs, it may encourage a higher settlement. A higher settlement, in this case, would allow the individual to pay off their bills and have enough additional compensation for their hardships.
Physical and financial hardships
A jury serving in this Court case may consider the physical and financial hardships a person is now facing because of their use of talcum powder, such as reduced bodily function (difficulty breathing or trouble being active for an extended period of time) or the loss of ability to work.
Quality of life diminished
A jury may consider whether an individual's quality of life has diminished significantly due to their use of talcum powder in the past. During a Court case hearing, a person may show proof of how their life has changed for the worse since using the product. Additionally, if a person lost their spouse to a type of cancer linked to talcum powder use, that person can file a lawsuit by claiming loss of consortium.
Do you qualify for a talcum powder lawsuit?
If you're seeking financial compensation for injuries associated with the use of talcum powder, there are some factors to consider. You may qualify for a talcum powder lawsuit if you meet these criteria:
- Purchased and used Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder or Shower to Shower in the genital area for at least four years.
- Diagnosed by a doctor with ovarian cancer, mesothelioma, endometrioid ovarian cancer, other major lung conditions, or invasive fallopian tube cancer.
- Received the cancer diagnosis or a surgical pathology report in 2009 or later.
- Applied talcum powder before entering menopause.
- Received a positive biopsy with talcum powder evidence.
It's important to note that a preexisting health condition that increases your risk of getting ovarian cancer, such as having the BRCA1 gene or BRCA2 gene, may disqualify you from seeking compensation. Additionally, most people diagnosed with ovarian cancer that was caused by the use of talcum powder are women between the ages of 40 and 60.
There are two types of lawsuits that people may potentially qualify for if they believe they are a victim of Johnson & Johnson's products and actions — State Court Litigation and Federal Litigation. Take action now if you need legal counsel to see if you qualify for relief from the harm potentially caused by a product intended for self-care and marketed as safe to use.
Talcum Powder Updates
For more information and recent updates on the talcum powder lawsuits, please see the following news articles: