J&J Hid Talc Baby Powder Cancer Risks

An Article by Law360, Los Angeles (October 4, 2016, 6:59 PM EDT) — A woman who developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson talc-based baby powder on her genitals urged a Missouri jury Tuesday to find J&J liable for her ailment, saying the company has known for years about the product’s cancer link but would not warn consumers.

During opening arguments in St. Louis, Deborah Giannecchini’s attorney R. Allen Smith Jr. of The Smith Law Firm said that J&J’s internal documents showed that the company had written out “a question and answer” to prepare for questions from plaintiffs attorneys, and that another document suggested the company would be compared to the cigarette industry if it did not warn customers. Smith said J&J had been urged since at least 1982 to use warning labels.

But it has not, leading to his client Giannecchini’s Stage 4 ovarian cancer and complications from her treatment and a greatly reduced life expectancy, Smith told jurors.

“She has literally had her spleen removed, part of her stomach removed, part of her colon removed, all of her ovaries, uterus. She has literally had basically the lower half of her body removed,” Smith said. “She said if there would have been a warning on the bottle to not use this on the genital area, she would not have done it and we might not be here.”

J&J’s attorney David E. Dukes of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, meanwhile, argued that there is no solid link between talc and ovarian cancer.

He said that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were among trusted medical institutions that looked for a potential link but found none.

“No one knows what causes ovarian cancer,” Dukes said.

Talc company Imerys Talc America Inc., also a defendant, seconded J&J’s contention that the mineral is not linked to cancer. Imerys’ attorney Nancy Erfle of Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani LLP added that her client does not market the baby powder product but merely provides the raw materials used to make it.

Giannecchini’s trial follows massive losses by J&J in two similar cases this year.

In February, a Missouri jury awarded $72 million to the estate of Jacqueline Fox, who died of ovarian cancer after using the body powder for decades. It was reportedly the first time the company has been ordered to pay damages over the link between cancer and the talc used in its products.

The Fox verdict included $10 million in compensatory damages and $62 million in punitive damages.

In another case in May, a Missouri jury slammed the company with a $55 million verdict in a suit brought by Gloria Ristesund.

For more coverage of Giannecchini’s trial, visit Courtroom View Network.

Arguing for Giannecchini is R. Allen Smith Jr. of The Smith Law Firm.

Arguing for Johnson & Johnson is David E. Dukes of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP. Arguing for Imerys is Nancy Erfle of Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani LLP.

The case is Giannecchini v. Johnson & Johnson et al., case number 1422-CC09012-01, in the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court of the State of Missouri.