Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $568m in powder lawsuit

A jury in the US ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay US$417 million (S$567 million) to Eva Echeverria, who claimed she developed ovarian cancer after using the company's talc-based products. They are facing 4,800 similar cases nationally.

LOS ANGELES • In what may be the largest award so far in a lawsuit tying ovarian cancer to talcum powder, a Los Angeles jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay US$417 million (S$568 million) in damages to a medical receptionist who developed ovarian cancer after using the company's trademark Johnson's Baby Powder on her perineum for decades.

Ms Eva Echeverria, 63, of East Los Angeles is one of thousands of women who have sued the consumer products giant claiming baby powder caused their disease.

Only a few lawsuits have gone to trial, but so far most of the decisions have gone against the company. In May, a Missouri jury awarded US$110 million to a Virginia woman, a year after Missouri juries awarded US$55 million to one plaintiff and US$72 million to a woman who died before the verdict. Another woman in South Dakota won a lawsuit, but the jury did not award damages.

In March, a St Louis jury rejected a Tennessee woman's claim that the powder had caused her ovarian cancer, and a New Jersey judge dismissed two talcum powder lawsuits against the company.

Many women sprinkle baby powder on their inner thighs to prevent chafing, or use it on their perineum, sanitary pads or underwear for its drying and freshening effects.

Ms Echeverria, who was too sick to testify in court and gave a videotaped deposition, started using Johnson's Baby Powder when she was 11 and continued after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007, unaware that some studies had linked talc to cancer, said her lawyer, Mr Mark Robinson.

A spokesman for Johnson & Johnson, Ms Carol Goodrich, said the company would appeal the verdict in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County and was preparing for additional trials.

The company "will continue to defend the safety of Johnson's Baby Powder", she said.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2017, with the headline 'Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $568m in powder lawsuit'. Print Edition | Subscribe