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Recent Victory in Talc-Ovarian Cancer Multidistrict Litigation

May 1, 2020, by Andrew Mason

Talcum powder has been used for decades to maintain dry skin and control odors. Common talc-based products include Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower (Johnson & Johnson). Decades of research has shown a strong link between talcum powder and the development of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. According to the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer, frequent talcum powder use on the female genital area increases the risk of cancer between 30–60%. The more often a woman uses it, the more likely she will experience cancer. As a result, thousands of women and their families have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and other manufacturers, claiming that talc-based products damaged them both physically and financially. 

When lawsuits involve dangerous drugs, medical devices, or other complex issues that affect large numbers of people across the country, the federal court system often uses “multidistrict litigation (MDL)” lawsuits to bring together plaintiffs from across the United States. In MDLs, multiple civil cases that share a common issue are transferred to a single district court, which handles all discovery and pretrial proceedings for the lawsuits. Currently, the Federal District Court of New Jersey is overseeing thousands of lawsuits from around the U.S. concerning talc-based products and ovarian cancer.

Recently, U.S. District Court Judge Freda L. Wolfson ruled that certain scientific and medical experts proposed by the plaintiffs’ steering committee are qualified to testify regarding the link between genital talc use and ovarian cancer. This is the first time that a federal judge has ruled on scientific evidence in talc trials. After the ruling, as put by the plaintiffs’ steering committee, “Epidemiologists and gynecologic oncologists will be allowed to testify that talcum powder causes ovarian cancer, including their opinions regarding the contribution of asbestos, fibrous talc, and metals to its carcinogenicity.” 

In other words, this is a huge win for the victims of talc related ovarian cancer, and a huge blow to Johnson & Johnson, who claimed the experts relied on “junk science.” Judge Wolfson disagreed, finding the experts “used reliable methodology and their opinions are substantially supported by the science.” The ruling also provides a path for future state court cases to have these experts testify, as judges can see the detailed analysis used by Judge Wolfson in reaching her decision, and her determination that the experts used reliable science to reach their conclusions. 

Individuals who used a cosmetic or commercial talcum powder product and developed ovarian cancer or mesothelioma may be eligible to file a talcum powder lawsuit. All victims deserve fair compensation for the damages they have suffered. If you think you are a victim of talc related ovarian cancer, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can investigate your claim, review your medical records, and help you decide whether or not you should pursue a lawsuit.

Contact us for a free consultation today at (410) 752-6166.