The first talcum powder lawsuit held in California has ended in a $417 million verdict for a 63-year-old woman with ovarian cancer.
By Laurence Banville
A federal jury in Los Angeles has awarded Eva Echeverria, a 63-year-old woman who says she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson's talc-based body powders since she turned 11 years old, a record-setting award of $417 million in damages. The punitive damages award, which soared to $347 million, is unprecedented, according to BBC.
Johnson & Johnson Loses Fifth Talcum Powder TrialIt's the fifth trial loss for Johnson & Johnson, the country's largest talcum product manufacturer, following four verdicts in favor of plaintiffs with ovarian cancer rendered by state court juries in St. Louis. Only one trial, also held in Missouri, has resulted in a verdict for the defense. Tens of thousands of women have yet to see their own talc lawsuits aired in court.
Ms. Echeverria, who was diagnosed with cancer ten years ago, spoke to the court through a video deposition, the LA Times reports. In her testimony, Echeverria said she only stopped using Johnson & Johnson's talc products in 2016, after seeing a story on the news about a woman who had received a similar diagnosis after using talc powders for years.
Her attorneys maintained at every step that, in light of current medical research, Johnson & Johnson was or should have been aware of talc's potential to cause cancer. Echeverria said that if the company had put a warning on its products she would have stopped using them.
Record Punitive Damages JudgmentConvinced by these arguments, the Los Angeles jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay Ms. Echeverria a whopping $417 million, including $70 million in compensatory damages to reimburse the patient for her medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. The compensatory award was dwarfed by $347 million in punitive damages, intended to punish Johnson & Johnson for its failure to warn the public.
Shortly after the verdict's announcement, Johnson & Johnson announced plans to appeal the decision, as it has in the four prior trials that reached judgments in favor of plaintiffs. "We will appeal today's verdict because we are guided by the science," the company wrote in a statement, "which supports the safety of Johnson's Baby Powder."
At trial, the manufacturer's defense attorneys argued unsuccessfully that the medical community's findings on talc have proven inconsistent. In contrast to those statements, lawyers for the plaintiff noted dozens of studies, conducting over the course of three decades, that have found a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.