Ever since Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products were first found to be linked with ovarian cancer in 1982, the pharmaceutical giant has stirred up no end of misery among inflicted consumers.
Many women and their families have sought justice for ovarian cancer cases from long-term use of talc-based Baby Powder and Shower to Shower®, and many have been successful.
Last October, $70 Million was awarded to a California woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012. Another $110 Million, the largest payout in the last 15 months of talc lawsuits, was awarded to a Virginia woman who developed cancer after using J&J’s talc products for decades.
Johnson & Johnson’s losses from all verdicts in these past 15 months total more than $300 Million, including punitive damages; a reasonable sum, perhaps, for so much allegedly caused pain and suffering. But the company will be aiming to halt this string of plaintiff victories after a mistrial declared in St. Louis earlier this month.
Supreme Court vs. The People
As well as offering victims the justice they deserve, talc lawsuits have played a critical role in educating women about the dangers of talc products. Yet, the truth about these risks is of little concern to Johnson & Johnson, who sees a recent court hearing as a further opportunity to cover up its wrongdoing.
In a major talc lawsuit underway in the St. Louis Circuit Court trial, brought by 1 in-state and 2 out-of-state plaintiffs over ovarian cancer claims, a judge declared a mistrial. The decision was motivated by a rule recently imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court, stating that state courts cannot hear claims against companies based outside the state in which injuries occurred.
This concept was introduced in a recent case against Bristol-Myers Squibb and its blood-thinning medication, Plavix. The case originally allowed hundreds of out-of-state patients to sue, which was overturned in an 8-1 ruling. The aim, according to justices, was to prevent plaintiffs from “venue shopping” for courts most in favor of injury lawsuits.
One plaintiff in the St. Louis case is a Missouri resident whose wife died of ovarian cancer. The judge believed the other 2 plaintiffs were scrambling to establish jurisdiction by claiming against Pharma Tech, a Franklin County company that packages and labels J&J’s talc products.
This change in ruling could also nullify 5 previous St. Louis verdicts, including the major $70M and $110M settlements. These 4 verdicts are currently going through appeals courts, which are awaiting the decision of the Bristol-Myers Squibb case.
“We’re pleased our request for a mistrial was granted,” said a J&J spokeswoman. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time the company is happy to deny victims their day in court.
J&J Stopping at Nothing to Protect Talc
Even before 2006, when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) first classified talc as “carcinogenic to humans,” research had established clear links between Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and ovarian cancer time and time again.
Studies suggest that continued use of talcum powder in the genital area, typically over several decades, can increase risks of developing ovarian cancer by as much as 30 percent. When directly applied to the genital area, talc particles can travel up the genitals and become lodged within the ovaries. This could lead to chronic inflammation, which can become cancerous.
These medical findings haven’t stopped J&J continuing to defend its products’ safety, going as far as to cite the IARC as displaying a “lack of credible scientific evidence.” The company has even refused to add warning labels to any of its products, prioritizing profits over feminine health.
Over the years, J&J has worked hard to first hide the dangers of its talc products from the public, and then, subsequently, to refute any scientific evidence to the contrary. But expert health agencies, including the IARC and others that have fully reviewed talc – not to mention evidence put forth in past talc lawsuits – are making the risks more and more difficult to deny.
What Does the Supreme Court Ruling Indicate?
By ruling in favor of Big Business’s wish to stop plaintiffs from shopping for out-of-state courts, the judicial system arguably sided with corporations rather than allowing justice to run its course.
Unfortunately, this includes corporations such as J&J and their partners. These are companies that repeatedly try to skirt accountability and blatantly disregard the lives of their customers.
At any rate, the Supreme Court’s ruling may slow down the system by preventing lawsuits against corporations from being consolidated in 1 place. This could lead to unfairness for personal injury plaintiffs, believes Justice Sonia Sotomayor:
“[There] is nothing unfair about subjecting a massive corporation to suit in a state for a nationwide course of conduct that injures both forum [state] residents and nonresidents alike.”
If Pharma Tech is established as a defendant in talc lawsuits, it could give at least 1,100 other cases the opportunity to be heard in St. Louis. Victims are urged to come forward to review all legal options while awaiting the results of Johnson & Johnson’s appeals. The company cannot continue to ignore the scientific evidence linking talc to ovarian cancer and, while medical professionals advise against its use, consumers have the right to pursue justice for any alleged injuries.