Published: Sat, October 29, 2016
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Jury awards more than $70M to woman in baby powder lawsuit

Two previous St. Louis juries awarded verdicts to plaintiffs Jacqueline Fox and Gloria Ristesund of $72 million and $55 million after concluding that talc exposure causes ovarian cancer.

Deborah Giannecchini of Modesto, California, blamed the company for "negligent conduct" after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012.

Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $65 million to Giannecchini in punitive damages and almost $2.5 million for her medical bills, pain, and suffering. The jury also assessed $2.575 million in compensatory damages, with Johnson & Johnson responsible for 90 percent.

Given the impact these initial trials could have on shaping the terms of any eventual large-scale settlement, a battalion of high-powered attorneys descended on Judge Rex Burlison's St. Louis courtroom from all across the country.

Jim Onder, the claimant's lawyer, said: 'We are pleased the jury did the right thing'.

She says about a year and a half after her diagnosis she saw an ad that linked ovarian cancer to talcum powder, a product she's used for about 45 years.

Talc is the softest of minerals that is crushed into a white powder and widely used in cosmetics and personal hygiene products to absorb moisture.

While she's relieved her legal battle is over, Giannecchini is still fighting cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies genital use of talc as "possibly carcinogenic". He insists that studies indicate that women who use talc regularly on their genital area are 40% more likely to develop ovarian cancer. But other studies have shown no increase.

Ovarian cancer accounts for about 22,000 of the 1.7 million new cases of cancer expected to be diagnosed in the US this year. The disease strikes about one woman in 70.

"Lord knows, with the amount of powder that's been applied to babies' bottoms, we would've seen something" if talc caused cancer, said Lawrence, vice president of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

In his 33-page opinion, Johnson said the testimony of Dr. Daniel Cramer, a professor at Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women's Hospital, and Dr. "The theories relied upon by plaintiffs' experts lacked scientific foundation".

J&J spokesperson Carol Goodrich told CVN the company plans an appeal.

Prior to the recent litigation, suspicions about the risks of talc were nearly unknown outside of the scientific community.

While juror Billie Ray, 76, felt that Johnson & Johnson products should feature a warning label to allow customers to decide whether they want to use the talc.

For decades Johnson and Johnson said baby powder would make women feel fresh. As long as the case includes local residents, the other claimants can reside anywhere in the country.

Deborah Giannecchini can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

Johnson & Johnson now faces more 1,800 talcum powder lawsuits in courts around the country. This is the first time Imerys has also been held liable.

Mr Onder said around 4,000 similar cases are pending.

"All of us have had a bad experience with big companies", he said. But, he said, "the totality of scientific evidence ... shows that talc does not cause ovarian cancer".

Multiple sources confirmed to HarrisMartin that the verdict total was just over $70 million and was entered against all the remaining defendants, including Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc.

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