J&J’s Facing Latest Baby Powder Cancer Trial Alone In Missouri Court
By Mark A. York (July 6, 2018)
ANOTHER J&J BABY POWDER OVARIAN CANCER TRIAL
(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) The case of Gail Ingham v. Johnson & Johnson, No. 1522-CC10417, Circuit Court, City of St. Louis, Missouri, Judge Rex Burlison
Johnson & Johnson is flying solo in their latest baby powder cancer trial underway in St. Louis City Circuit Court, in front of Judge Rex Burlison, who has refused the many attempt by J&J to dismiss, remove and simply evade another ovarian cancer trial linked to J&J’s baby powder. This time they’re standing alone, after co-defendant Imerys Talc settled claims with 22 plaintiffs right before the trial began. The US unit of French minerals company Imerys SA settled claims by women for at least $5 million, related to Imerys mined talc supplied to Johnson & Johnson for making baby powder that’s been linked to ovarian cancer in several previous trials across the country.
The question becomes, just when did J&J become aware of the many adverse events and dangers of using its baby focused Talcum Powder products that have also been used by millions of adults worldwide?
At the start of the trial, plaintiff trial attorney Mark Lanier told jurors about a study of infants who had been born dead. “They took biopsies and all of them had asbestos that had migrated from the womb across the placenta.”
Then Lanier showed the jury an internal J&J email where someone at the company recommended moving the product from the baby aisle or replacing talcum with corn starch.
Lanier has stated he’s uncovered stacks of new evidence showing J&J officials knew by the 1960s its baby powder was tainted with at least trace amounts of asbestos and hid the product’s cancer risks to protect its reputation.
Why would Johnson & Johnson be sending internal e-mails of this type, if there weren’t known risks associated with the talc products?
J&J USE OF FRONT COMPANIES AND LOBBYING GROUPS
With J&J at the helm, the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CTFA), now the PCPC, formed a talc lobbyist group in response to the first epidemiologic studies that discovered an association between ovarian cancer and genital talc use in the early 1980s. J&J and Luzenac, now Imerys Talc, were the primary actors and contributors to the Talc Interested Party Task Force (TIPTF). J&J and Imerys coordinated all the activities of the talc lobbyist group in the District of Columbia.
The stated purpose of the TIPTF was to pool financial resources of primarily J&J and Imerys to collectively defend talc at all costs and prevent regulation of any type over the cosmetic ingredient. The talc lobbyist group hired scientists to perform biased talc safety research studies. Members of the lobbyist group edited research reports by scientists on their payroll prior to submitting them to governmental agencies. Furthermore, TIPTF members knowingly released false information about the safety of talc to the public and used political and economic influence on regulatory bodies to prevent any intervention.
PCPC coordinated the defense of talc and acted as a mouthpiece for TIPTF members, including J&J and Imerys. PCPC’s revenue is generated through a dues system based on its members’ annual sales. $76.5 billion in annual sales puts J&J in the top hundred of the highest grossing companies in the world, and the highest revenue generator in the PCPC. Consequently, the PCPC had an extremely vested interest in protecting J&J’s products and financial interests.
J&J SUPPRESSED ADVERSE FINDINGS ON TALC
According to scientific evidence, there have been studies showing a direct link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer that started emerging close to 50 years ago. How as this kept from public view? Starting in 1971, Dr. W.J. Henderson and other notable researchers in Cardiff, Wales conducted the first study that suggested an association between talc and ovarian cancer.
In 1982, the first epidemiological study on talc powder use in the female genital area emerged. This study found a 92 percent increased risk of developing ovarian cancer in women who reported genital talc use. Shortly after the study’s publication, Dr. Bruce Semple of J&J spoke with lead researcher Dr. Daniel Cramer. Dr. Cramer advised Dr. Semple that J&J needed to place a warning on its talcum powder products about ovarian cancer risks so that women could make informed decisions about their health. Since 1982, there have been more than 27 additional epidemiological studies indicating a significant link between talc and ovarian cancer.
In 1993, a U.S. National Toxicology Program published a study on the toxicity of non-asbestiform talc that determined that there was clear evidence of carcinogenic activity. Consequently. researchers concluded that talc was a carcinogen, with or without asbestos contamination. Then, in 1994, the Cancer Prevention Coalition notified J&J’s CEO that studies as far back as the 1960s “…show conclusively that the frequent use of talcum powder in the genital area poses a serious health risk of ovarian cancer.”
The coalition further indicated that 14,000 women die from ovarian cancer each year and that this type of cancer is very difficult to detect and has a low survival rate. The coalition begged the company to withdraw its talc products from the market or at least provide safety information.
Since then, the World Health Organization, the Canadian government, and various other cancer organizations have classified talc as a carcinogen.
The Ingham v. Johnson & Johnson Missouri Trial
The current case before Judge Burlison is at least the fifth ovarian cancer trial held in his court in the last two years. In previous trials, plaintiffs from across the country have been awarded substantial judgments totaling more than $300 million. One of the first talc trials resulted in a $72 million verdict for Jacqueline Fox, of Birmingham, AL which was vacated by a state appeals court last October, based on the US Supreme Court’s Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) v. Superior Court of California decision of June 2017 related to non-resident plaintiffs in state court actions.
This current case filed by Gail Ingham of O’Fallon, Mo. was removed to federal court last year by J&J, but US District Court Judge Stephen Limbaugh remanded it back to Judge Burlison’s court in July.
On May 15, 2018 Burlison told parties to get ready for trial and ruled that he would not sever, transfer or stay claims, finding sufficient contacts between Johnson & Johnson in Missouri to invoke a long arm statute.
WIDELY DIFFERENT VIEWS
Johnson & Johnson has defended lawsuits alleging its baby powder caused ovarian cancer in women in the past, as several trials across the country have linked their illnesses to exposure to asbestos in the company’s talc.
The talc cases which now number close to 10,000 in state and federal courts, with claims that the company sold talc in its iconic white Johnson’s Baby Powder bottles knowing it either caused ovarian cancer or was tainted with asbestos and failed to warn consumers to protect the brand.
A J&J representative, said in an emailed statement “The talc in Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos or cause ovarian cancer and we will continue to defend the safety of our product,”
J&J FACING OVER 9,000 SUITS
Last month, jurors in California awarded a woman who said she routinely used talc on children and herself $25.7 million over her mesothelioma diagnosis. A South Carolina jury couldn’t reach a verdict on similar claims the same week as the California ruling.
Those decisions followed a New Jersey jury’s finding in April that J&J and a unit of talc supplier Imerys SA must pay $117 million to a banker who claimed his cancer was tied to baby powder use.
J&J still faces talc lawsuits by more than 9,000 plaintiffs, primarily focused on ovarian cancer, according to a May securities filing. That number has grown from 1,200 in 2016. An unknown number of consumers claim that J&J’s talc products caused mesothelioma. See J&J Talcum Powder MDL 2738 USDC New Jersey Briefcase.
WHEN AND WHAT DID J&J KNOW ABOUT TALC DANGERS?
In opening statements, Lanier said the “big fight” in the case was whether there’s asbestos in J&J’s talc products and whether J&J knew it and hid it.
He then offered that multiple studies by universities, companies, agencies and even J&J itself found asbestos in talc, but that J&J had “manipulated the science in more ways than I can count” to obscure the facts. The company was compelled to protect its baby powder brand as its “sacred cow,” based on the millions of dollars earned every year.
“To say that J&J rigged test results is false,” Peter Bicks, J&J’s lawyer told jurors. “J&J always went above and beyond in testing for asbestos.”
Most of the women in St. Louis trial used baby powder, but others used Shower-to-Shower, another of J&J’s talc-based products which J&J sold the product to Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. in 2012 and Valeant now faces asbestos suits over that body powder product.
The women, whose jobs range from school bus driver to executive director of a job-retraining program, come from states across the country, such as Pennsylvania, California, Arizona and New York. Six of the women have died, so their families are pressing wrongful-death claims against J&J.
When Krystal Kim, one of the women suing, learned testing by her lawyers of the Johnson’s Baby Powder she used showed it was laced with asbestos, she felt sick. “I was scared and mad at the same time,” said Kim, a 52-year-old former computer consultant now battling ovarian cancer. “It certainly wasn’t what I expected to have in my house or to be putting on my body every day.”
Kim traveled to St. Louis for the trial and she’s banking on jurors holding J&J accountable for her cancer after hearing Lanier’s evidence. “I’m hoping this jury says no more little girls should be harmed by this powder,” she said. “I’m hoping it stops here.”
The trial is expected to last another week to 10 days and we will provide updates until a verdict is returned.
The case is Ingham v. Johnson & Johnson, No. 1522-CC10417, Circuit Court, City of St. Louis, Missouri, Judge Rex Burlison