Johnson & Johnson hit with $417M verdict as talcum powder liability losses mount

J&J says it will appeal its latest loss in a case tying its baby powder to ovarian cancer, even as 4,800 more cases are pending.

Johnson & Johnson has lost yet another talcum powder lawsuit, this time being hit with a $417 million verdict—more than the total awards in the four cases it has already lost.

A jury in Los Angeles Monday awarded 63-year-old Eva Echeverria, $70 million in compensatory damages and $347 million in punitive damages, the Los Angeles Times reported. The jury decided that there was a connection between Echeverria’s ovarian cancer and her use of J&J’s powder.

In a video deposition, she testified that she had used the product from the time she was 11 until last year when she heard about the cases that had alleged a link between the cancer and the powder. She was diagnosed in 2007. She said she would have stopped using the product if the label had warned about a link between cancer and use of the powder.  

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RELATED: After Bristol-Myers Squibb's Supreme Court win, Johnson & Johnson seeks relief from $300M in talc verdicts

J&J, which said it will appeal the verdict as it has the others, has steadfastly denied there is any connection and has pointed to scientific studies in defense of its product.

“Ovarian cancer is a devastating diagnosis and we deeply sympathize with the women and families impacted by this disease,” J&J spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said in an emailed statement. “We will appeal today’s verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder. In April, the National Cancer Institute’s Physician Data Query Editorial Board wrote, ‘The weight of evidence does not support an association between perineal talc exposure and an increased risk of ovarian cancer.’”

Johnson & Johnson has lost four talcum liability cases in Missouri, with jury awards of $72 million, $55 million, $70 million and $110 million. It has won three others but has reported that there are another 4,800 backed up talcum claims still waiting to be addressed.  

RELATED: Johnson & Johnson expected to keep battling talc claims despite losses: expert

Despite the string of losses, legal liability experts expect the company to keep fighting them, saying it has science on its side.

“If Johnson & Johnson thought the plaintiffs had a silver bullet, their strategy might be different,” Mark Raffman, a partner at the Goodwin law firm in Washington, D.C., told FiercePharma recently.

He explained that the plaintiffs are trying to prove an “industry conspiracy” to hide the risks of routine talcum use, but said that it might be a stretch.

“From what I’ve read, they don’t have evidence to back that up and aren’t going to find it.”

Ted Meadows, one of the plaintiff attorneys in the Los Angeles case told FiercePharma that he doesn’t expect J&J to give up and go home, but that neither will he and his colleagues. "If they want to keep trying cases one by one, then that’s what we will do.”

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