J&J Loses Suit Tying Cancer To Baby Powder -- WSJ

By Anne Steele and Jonathan D. Rockoff Features Dow Jones Newswires

Johnson & Johnson was hit with a $110 million jury decision in favor of a woman who said talc in the company's baby powder gave her ovarian cancer, the latest -- and largest -- verdict yet in the litigation saga.

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The company said it would quickly appeal the verdict awarded by a St. Louis jury, the fourth such defeat for J&J and Imerys SA, the talc mining company.

A J&J spokeswoman said a jury decision in the company's favor in St. Louis in March and the dismissal of two cases in New Jersey in September 2016 "highlight the lack of credible scientific evidence behind plaintiffs' allegations." In the New Jersey cases, a state court judge ruled that plaintiffs' scientific experts couldn't adequately support their theories that talcum powder causes ovarian cancer.

J&J has said talc is safe to use in cosmetic products and that its baby-powder labeling is appropriate. The spokeswoman said the company has no plans to settle any related pending litigation.

"We are preparing for additional trials this year and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson's Baby Powder," she said.

Many jury verdicts are often reduced, if not thrown out, on appeal.

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J&J, which is based in New Brunswick, N.J., has argued that juries in St. Louis, in particular, have been tainted by a deluge of trial-lawyer advertisements promoting a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, but a judge refused the company's requests to move the trials.

J&J won the most recent trial in March but lost three others, which led to verdicts totaling more than $194 million that are now on appeal. Thursday's verdict in St. Louis in favor of a 62-year-old Virginia woman capped the fifth trial alleging the company's talc is tied to ovarian cancer.

Lawyers for the plaintiff said the litigation continues with "thousands more claimants across the globe."

"We don't care how many trials it takes," said James Onder, one of the trial attorneys, noting that his firm will continue to support those suing the companies "until Johnson & Johnson and Imerys stand up and do the right thing."

Talcum powder is commonly used because the mineral is good at absorbing moisture, while also keeping skin dry and preventing rashes.

In its natural form, talc contains some asbestos, which can "cause cancers in and around the lungs when inhaled," according to the American Cancer Society. But manufacturers have been removing asbestos from talc products since the 1970s, and evidence of any link between asbestos-free talc and cancer is "less clear," the society said.

Trial lawyers argue that J&J should have at least warned customers there was a risk of ovarian cancer considering longstanding concerns about a link.

Studies probing a connection between talc and ovarian cancer have returned mixed findings. If talc does raise the risk of ovarian cancer, the increased risk "is likely to be very small," according to the American Cancer Society.

An independent review of 16 studies examining whether there is a link to talc exposure and ovarian cancer, conducted for the National Cancer Institute's cancer-information database, found the "weight of evidence does not support an association."

Write to Anne Steele at Anne.Steele@wsj.com and Jonathan D. Rockoff at Jonathan.Rockoff@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 06, 2017 02:47 ET (06:47 GMT)