On September 24, Johnson & Johnson emerged victorious from a talcum powder trial in Philadelphia, PA after a jury acquitted the company of civil liability for one woman’s ovarian cancer, according to Law360.
This trial is one of the thousands of individual cases being handled outside of the national Multidistrict Litigation (MDL). Plaintiffs in the MDL claim that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder was contaminated with asbestos, and because the company concealed that information, the powder caused ovarian cancer.
The plaintiffs in the Philadelphia trial, Ellen Kleiner and her husband, filed a lawsuit claiming Johnson & Johnson’s talcum products, which Kleiner used for decades, were a contributing factor in her development of ovarian cancer. While Kleiner did not pass away, her cancer had spread into her abdomen by the time she was able to be diagnosed. Kleiner underwent six rounds of aggressive chemotherapy and two operations to remove her reproductive organs.
Kleiner’s attorneys alleged that Johnson & Johnson has known about links between their talc products and cancer that were established beginning in the 1940s. Despite this knowledge, the lawsuit claims, the company took no effort to warn the public of these risks.
Johnson & Johnson’s attorneys gave their standard rebuttal that these claims went against decades of scientific, medical, and regulatory statements. Additionally, the defense also indicated that they believed a number of obfuscating factors existed that prevented any definitive links from being made.
These factors included the fact that Mrs. Kleiner’s lineage includes Ashkenazi Jewish heritage. According to the CDC, “One in 40 Ashkenazi Jewish women has a BRCA gene mutation” which increases the risk of breast, ovarian, and other cancers to develop.
After a five-week trial and two days of deliberation, the jury returned their decision that Johnson & Johnson’s product was not contributory to Kleiner's ovarian cancer. Kleiner’s attorney, Leigh O’Dell, has announced that she intends to appeal the decision and will continue to bring these cases nationally to “demonstrate the tragic consequences for these families and the negligence of J&J.”