On Friday, September 24, 2021, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania jury rendered a defense verdict in favor of Defendant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) in the Ellen Kleiner matter. The following Monday, September 27, 2021, a St. Louis, Missouri jury rendered a defense verdict in favor of J&J in the multi-plaintiff matter of Giese, et al.
Plaintiff, represented by the Beasley Allen Law Firm, alleged that daily use of J&J’s talc-based baby powder in the genital area over the course of more than 20 years caused or contributed to Ms. Kleiner’s development of ovarian cancer, and that J&J was aware of an association between perineal use of J&J’s baby powder and ovarian cancer for decades and continued to sell the product without providing a warning to the consumer. Plaintiff further contended that, had Ms. Kleiner known of the risks associated with the perineal use of talcum powder, she never would have used it. However, the jurors found that Plaintiff failed to prove a prima facie case against J&J, the sole defendant.
Both Plaintiff and J&J presented a battery of experts – detailed summaries of the testimony provided is available from MKCI’s Talc Litigation Practice Group upon request.
In brief, Plaintiff’s toxicology expert, Laura Plunkett, Ph.D., testified that J&J knew of the dangers of talc since 1948 and cited studies allegedly showing a link between perineal use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer. Plaintiff argued that each study provided further notice of the risk of ovarian cancer to female consumers, yet despite this risk, J&J continued to use talc in its baby powder. Plaintiff presented expert pathologist, Dr. John Godleski, who testified that he found talc in Plaintiff’s ovarian tissue. Plaintiff also presented gynecological oncologist, Dr. Judith Wolf, who testified that talcum powder, when used in the genital area, can migrate up the reproductive tract and evoke an inflammatory response causing gene mutation resulting in cancer. Lastly, Plaintiff presented microbiologist, Dr. Mark Rigler, who testified that he found talc fibers along with cobalt, chromium and nickel when he conducted a fiber analysis of J&J’s baby powder. Plaintiff, her husband, and her close friend testified about her ovarian cancer diagnosis, treatment, and lack of a genetic predisposition to ovarian cancer.
Conversely, J&J presented testimony and evidence that perineal talcum powder use does not cause ovarian cancer. J&J called epidemiologist, Dr. Gregory Diette, who discussed several cohort studies and opined there is no causal relationship between perineal use of talc and ovarian cancer. J&J’s gynecological oncologist, Dr. Cheryl Saenz, testified that there is no science to support Plaintiff’s migration theory, and that the studies presented by Plaintiff were flawed in their design. J&J also relied upon Dr. Saenz and genetics expert, Dr. Jeff Boyd, to argue that Plaintiff’s Ashkenazi Jewish heritage and family history put her at an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Furthermore, Dr. Boyd argued that Plaintiff did not have additional genetic testing after her BRCA1 and BRCA2 test results were indeterminate, as was suggested by her genetic counselor. In addition, J&J presented Dr. Terri Longacre, a gynecological pathologist, who testified that if talc was present in tissue there would be evidence of white blood cells trying to attack the foreign body, which was not present here. Finally, J&J presented geologist and mineralogist, Dr. Matthew Sanchez, who testified that Dr. Rigler was incorrect in his fiber analysis and that Dr. Godleski’s findings were not talc fibers, and were instead likely contaminants.
The jury, comprised of ten women and two men, deliberated for two days before reaching a verdict on behalf of the defense, finding that J&J’s baby powder was not a contributing factor to the development of plaintiff’s ovarian cancer.
Giese, et al. – Victoria Giese, Angela Trentmann and Susan Vogeler
Plaintiffs in this case were again represented by the Beasley Allen Law Firm, along with the Smith Law Firm, and alleged that use of J&J’s baby powder caused them to develop ovarian cancer and that J&J knew for years that its talc products posed a risk of cancer but withheld that information from consumers to protect their sales of popular household brands even while safer cornstarch-based body powders were available.
As in Kleiner, Plaintiffs in this matter relied upon the testimony of Drs. Plunkett and Godleski, as well as additional experts, to argue that J&J knew of the dangers of talc and that talc can migrate up the reproductive tract and evoke an inflammatory response, causing gene mutation resulting in cancer.
J&J’s counsel argued the science the Plaintiffs rely on to support their claims is flawed and unreliable and that the company’s cosmetic talc products undergo extensive testing to ensure their safety.
Like the Philadelphia jury, the St. Louis jury did not agree with Plaintiffs’ assertions and, in one hour, returned a defense verdict finding that Plaintiffs did not make a prima facie showing of a causal connection between J&J’s talc based baby powder and ovarian cancer.
The first cosmetic talc trial against J&J in St. Louis took place in 2018 and resulted in a $4.7 billion verdict (later reduced to ($2.1 billion) in a similar case involving 22 plaintiffs.
Please contact MKCI’s Talc Litigation Practice Group for further information regarding these trials and/or the defenses presented.