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Johnson and Johnson talcum powder have been linked to possible ovarian cancer.
Talcum Powder certainly has that reputation and women throughout the South made use of this product. Most of them their whole lives and certainly members of my family have used that product daily you know my kids when they were babies made use of that product. And it’s recently come to light that at least among adult women use of the talcum products in the genital area can result in an enhanced risk of ovarian cancer.
There’s a lot of litigation going on about that now and documents have come to light showing that Johnson and Johnson had basically known these facts since around the early 1990s, and there have been studies regarding use of those products going back to the 1960s, showing that the use of talcum products could result in an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
The litigation is brought by women who have ovarian cancer and they have, in most cases, a long history of using talcum powder for you know, in their intimate areas, let’s say. So if they had knowledge of this let’s say going back to the 1960s, and let’s assume for just a second that they withheld this knowledge. So we’re not just talking about negligence here.
Compensatory damages are talking about a punitive element, certainly. There’s been two cases where those facts have been presented to juries and in one of the cases the jury came back with a ten million dollar award in compensatory damages for the woman who died of ovarian cancer and they added on sixty two million in punitive damages and then another case in which the lady was still alive but had ovarian cancer they awarded her ten million dollars and gave fifty million to punitive damages. Those are the two cases that have gone the verdict those cases were both brought in St Louis Missouri.
There were some cases brought in New Jersey where Johnson and Johnson is headquartered. And the judge in that case dismissed the plaintiff’s experts from testifying and then dismissed the cases.
There’s a couple of hundred of them out in California there are some in Washington D.C. but obviously this is a product that’s been there for generations all throughout the country and it’s a product almost everyone is familiar with the real issue being raised is that these studies that were done reveal the risk and J. and J. never chose to put a warning on the product. Where they simply couldn’t change the product itself to cornstarch instead of the talcum powder, cornstarch basically would provide the same type of function but without this risk.
The science is pretty strong there’s about twenty epa dermatological studies that are out there showing the increased risk and the thing that really is convincing about it is some of the-the studies of the cells removed from the body.
You can actually see pieces of talcum powder at the center of the tumor, so you can almost see that the cancer formed around the talcum powder. So what’s the status of the New Jersey case? Well those, there were two cases brought there that have been dismissed by the judge, so that’s on appeal by the plaintiffs they will be asking an appellate court to overturn that decision and at least let them have a chance to try the case J.and .J. is defending the cases contending that there is no link between the talcum powder and ovarian cancer, but the real problem is their own documents which, you know, there’s letters from consultants they had paid indicating that they needed to put a warning on the box about this risk and there’s letters to the C.E.O. is written back in the 1990s to J.and.J. and other executives there.
So there’s documents being exchanged there’s depositions being taken the cases are being built but, right now, it looks like there’s going to be an awful lot of viable cases from women with ovarian cancer. So is there a warning label now when you tell compounder bottles saying “don’t use this in your pelvic area? Absolutely not. If you look at the product. Still it’s that any of the J and .J. talcum powder products they have some mention on there about using them with babies think it’s Keep it keep the baby from inhaling it or something like that but there’s there’s no mention that it poses risks ovarian cancer if it’s used in the genital areas.
Now the talcum powder itself. This the substance of the powder is it’s the same today as it was back then. It’s basically a mineral product I think it’s been pretty much un-altered. You know, it’s one of the first products, I think, J. and J. actually had and what I think one of their reasons are trying to defend that product so aggressively is because their name is closely associated with that product and of course almost all babies you think about babies get their diapers changed be a rare baby they didn’t use that product at least on some occasions. Let me ask you your personal opinion.
When you have two daughters and you said you used it on your daughters when they were little, course this was before we knew what we know now, if your daughters were that age today if they were babies would you would you apply talcum powder. I think I would use a different product probably a cornstarch product to achieve the same purpose but you know the studies I’ve seen they haven’t really been done that babies they’ve mostly been done revolving built women most of the ovarian cancer cases just see are women in the age of forty to sixty years old, although I have one client who’s eighteen years old myself who had hysterectomy because she had ovarian cancer a very early age in life and she was a daily user of that product and she had to have her uterus removed and ovaries and her whole all of her female organs.
If you don’t mind me asking and maybe this is pressing here, can she have children? Could you preserve her you can preserve her or freeze them or whatever. Well if you knew in advance of course this is this is quite a few years ago this happened to her but I suppose you could have some eggs harvested and find a donor. If you could find a surrogate mother to carry the child you might be able to have a child that way but of course you would never have a child naturally on your own without a lot of scientific intervention. So do you have a suit going against Johnson and Johnson? We have a case like that right now that we’ve been retained on and we are looking into it the. We need. We’re working on getting that pathology specimens and for that case. So we can take a look and actually see if we can zero down to finding talcum powder inside the cancer itself. Have you filed a suit yet? Well we’re being very careful about these because it matters a lot where the cases filed. So we haven’t filed ours yet we’re kind of waiting to see where they work out the best. Right-right now there’s about approximately a thousand pending in St Louis. But their house and there’s a there’s a little difficulty getting into that court because to file the case there, you have to be joined with the St Louis plaintiff and if you bring more than ninety plaintiffs in one case that is subject to being removed into federal court through various mechanisms the defense could take advantage of, so. What would be the disadvantage for the plaintiff of that? Well that-the disadvantage is going into federal court is that the federal judges are much more savers especially the ones appointed under the bush and earlier administrations about letting in scientific expert evidence they are more hostile to plaintiffs claims, let’s put it that way. So do you have the you do you have any suits going right now against Johnson and Johnson? We haven’t filed in a year where basically watching what’s happening in the ones that are pending and we will make a decision once we see some of these additional rulings about where to file those. I don’t think we’ll file them in Georgia. We would probably prefer to file them in St Louis, if we can or California. There’s a lot pending right now on the California cases those are very active but right now we’re waiting to make a strategic decision about where to file them. Now the two suits where there was a successful verdict. OK, fifty million plus whatever. I would think that that would open a Pandora’s Box but apparently hasn’t quite happened that way as yet. Well J. and J. is appealing those are tried to suppose get the get the judgment see the reversed or reduced. But is that every minute or whatever they call that? Well there’s all kind of think of things appellate courts can do if they think an award is excessive. But in this case there seems to be a pretty good legal framework for the verdict. Obviously jury verdicts are not all that easy to overturn I think at some point what’s going to happen is in most of these types of cases a settlement framework gets developed once the cases have gone through the trial process that they can be evaluated by both attorneys on both sides that they can come up with a framework to resolve the claims. What are the criteria that go into the size of the verdict in other words the age of the woman? Yes. Among other things her general health. Well obviously. It depends on who’s on jury duty that day and what they think is important because jurors get to set the damages but what they would look at is generally the age of the woman, the severity of her injury. If it’s a death case that’s more severe than someone who got treated and is still alive. What she did for a living. If she had earning, what her family status was, if she has minor children still living with her that she needs to care for, whether she’s married or not. My husband would have a claim for loss of consortium in a case like this if his wife contracted ovarian cancer. There’s a whole lot of factors that jurors consider setting compensatory damages and then consider setting punitive damages they look at the conduct of the defendant and they look at the wealth of the defendant they’re allowed to consider how much money will it take to punish this defendant So if they’re particularly wealthy sometimes, you can see very large numbers awarded like in these two cases. Is fifty or sixty million dollars is from that standpoint is it enough, and I’ll tell you why I ask this, is every once in awhile you see what happens a lot actually. So maybe there’s a criminal case against Bank of America or Goldman Sachs I don’t know which one that I don’t want to quote unquote indict one who may not be an involved in one of our no which ones they are but some of these financial institutions you know they’ve done. They violated criminal laws nobody goes to jail. But they end up paying a fine of upwards. A billion dollars and it doesn’t seem to stop them and I’m just wondering is fifty million dollars in effect is a chump change. Well you know it’s the multi billion dollar company and a multibillion dollar product within that company so that these two verdicts standing alone wouldn’t really make much of a dent to a company like J. and J. But if you multiply. You know obviously if there’s several thousand women and they all have got an award of this type that would potentially put them at risk at least at the minimum their stock would be severely impacted and they’ve got to defend themselves. Well they’ve got to and, you know I think what needs to happen is the criteria for how to resolve the cases could get defined that they never want to pay on a single case and they’re going to be in for a real long road to hoe because the science is good and there’s lots of women with claims and obviously jurors who hear this evidence are pretty angry at J and J and I just maybe settle and chalk it up to the cost of doing business. Sometimes they made immense profits from this if some people have been injured. It seems fair that those people who get compensated. Absolutely.