J&J and personal care ingredient supplier lose big in talc lawsuit

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Appeal Material safety data sheet Ovarian cancer

J&J and personal care ingredient supplier lose big in talc lawsuit
Late last week a jury in Missouri handed down a verdict that found both the baby powder maker and Imerys Talc America accountable for, among other things, conspiracy, breach of implied warranty, and negligence.

Johnson & Johnson is holding firm in its position that talc is safe for consumer use. “We are preparing for additional trials this year and we continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder,” ​Carol Goodrich, a spokesperson for the company tells the press. She adds that “The overwhelming body of scientific research and clinical evidence supports the safety of cosmetic talc.” ​And Goodrich affirms that the J&J will appeal this latest verdict.

Ingredient suppler Imerys will likely be taking the same stance. In the past, the company has told BloombergBusinessweek​ that, Imerys is “confident that its products are safe for use by its customers. Our confidence is supported by the consensus view of qualified scientific experts and regulatory agencies.”

The latest chapter

Thursday’s court ruling calls for J&J to pay Lois Slemp over $110m and for Imerys Talc Americas to pay out $100,000.

Slemp, who’s from Virgina, filed the case in Missouri (which allows plaintiffs to file suit there even with no connection to the state) claiming her long-term use of Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talc-based products led to ovarian cancer. “She used J&J’s baby power and Shower to Shower talc products for more than 40 years before she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012,” ​reports masstortnexus.com​, noting also that “Attorney Allen Smith of The Smith Law Firm of Ridgeland, MS, represented plaintiff Lois Slemp, age 62.”

As Cosmetics Design has reported​ in the past, Imerys supplies talc to J&J and with each shipment comes the requisite Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) on which Imerys indicates that, “perineal use of the powder is a possible risk factor for ovarian cancer.” ​It’s a warning that J&J does not pass along to consumers.

Though as J&J’s lawyer Orlando Richmond argued during the trial, according to Margaret Cronin Fisk and Tim Bross writing for Bloomberg.com​, “J&J doesn’t need to warn women about talc because there is no link…. The Food and Drug Administration was asked in 2014 whether a warning label should be put on baby powder….They said ‘No.’ The science doesn’t warrant it.”

Never-ending story

While this is the biggest penalty assessed against J&J for its talc products, it’s unlikely to be the last. The company is currently in the appeal process on other such cases. Later this in week in Missouri the court is set to hear oral arguments in an appeal of an earlier case that awarded $72m to plaintiff Jacqueline Fox​.

And there are apparently over 3,000 cases that have been filed against J&J, claiming essentially that the company knowingly disregarded a link between talc and cancer. For now it’s a back-and-forth battle.

Despite J&J’s assertions, the consumers suing believe science is on their side. As Tim Meadows a lawyer on the Slemp case tells the press, “once again we’ve shown that these companies ignored the scientific evidence and continue to deny their responsibilities to the women of America….I hope this verdict prompts J&J to acknowledge the facts and help educate the medical community and the public about the proper use of their products.”

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