from the totally-unexpected dept.
A California judge has thrown out a $417 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson. The plaintiff claimed that she developed ovarian cancer after using J&J's talc-based products:
The ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maren Nelson marked the latest setback facing women and family members who accuse J&J of not adequately warning consumers about the cancer risks of its talc-based products. The decision followed a jury's decision in August to hit J&J with the largest verdict to date in the litigation, awarding California resident Eva Echeverria $70 million in compensatory damages and $347 million in punitive damages.
Nelson on Friday reversed the jury verdict and granted J&J's request for a new trial. Nelson said the August trial was underpinned by errors and insufficient evidence on both sides, culminating in excessive damages.
Mark Robinson, who represented the woman in her lawsuit, in a statement said he would file an appeal immediately. "We will continue to fight on behalf of all women who have been impacted by this dangerous product," he said.
A jury recently awarded $70 million to a California woman who used Johnson & Johnson's talc-based baby powder and claimed that it caused her ovarian cancer. Two lawsuits from earlier this year awarded a combined $127 million, and thousands of other women have filed suits against Johnson & Johnson. Meanwhile, two other lawsuits in New Jersey were thrown out by a judge who said the scientific evidence wasn't reliable enough to establish a clear cancer link. All these cases follow on an original 2013 jury finding for physician's assistant Deane Berg, which paradoxically found that baby powder could have been a factor in her cancer yet awarded her zero damages.
While these real-world juries have been forced to make decisions on whether a substance causes cancer, the metaphorical scientific "jury is still out." The American Cancer Society's review of the evidence notes:
Findings have been mixed, with some studies reporting a slightly increased risk and some reporting no increase. Many case-control studies have found a small increase in risk. But these types of studies can be biased because they often rely on a person's memory of talc use many years earlier. Two prospective cohort studies, which would not have the same type of potential bias, have not found an increased risk.
The ACS concludes that "if there is an increased risk, the overall increase is likely to be very small." Most other cancer researchers seem to take a similarly measured approach in characterizing the current state of the evidence, such as these guidelines from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute:
"All of these studies suffer from incomplete data on patients' family history of ovarian or breast cancer, as well as the duration and frequency of powder use, says Panos Konstantinopoulos, MD, PhD, of the Gynecologic Oncology Program in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers at Dana-Farber. "In general, population-based studies have shown a statistically significant association with ovarian cancer risk, while hospital-based studies showed that this association is not statistically significant," he says. In addition, none of the studies found that risk rose with increased exposure to the powder, and there is no evidence that talcum powder use on other parts of the body affects ovarian cancer risk.
Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $70 million in compensatory damages and $347 million in punitive damages to a woman who claimed to have developed ovarian cancer as a result of using J&J powder products. Baby/talcum powder contains talc, a clay mineral:
Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $417m (£323.4m) to a woman who says she developed ovarian cancer after using products such as baby powder. The California jury's decision marks the largest award yet in a string of lawsuits that claim the firm did not adequately warn about cancer risks from talc-based products.
A spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson defended the products' safety. The firm plans to appeal, as it has in previous cases. "We will appeal today's verdict because we are guided by the science," Carol Goodrich, spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc, said in a statement.
The evidence around any link between talc use and cancer is inconclusive. Johnson & Johnson, headquartered in New Jersey, faces thousands of claims from women who say they developed cancer due to using the firm's products to address concerns about vaginal odour and moisture. Johnson & Johnson has lost four of five previous cases tried before juries in Missouri, which have led to more than $300m in penalties.