Talcum powder has made headlines lately after two juries in St Louis returned multi-million dollar verdicts against Johnson and Johnson for claims that its powder causes ovarian cancer.
In May, a woman was awarded nearly $5 million dollars in compensatory damages and $50 million dollars in punitive damages in a civil case against Johnson & Johnson. This was the second lawsuit that Johnson & Johnson has lost this year. The first awarded 72 million dollars for similar claims related to its Talcum powder in February 2016.
As a result of recent publicity, there are a growing number of women (and family members) who are suing J&J for developing ovarian cancer after learning of the increased risk from talcum powder-based products.
The Wieand Law Firm is investigating personal injury and wrongful death claims for Talcum powder users who have developed ovarian cancer. If you or a family member has developed ovarian cancer and previously used Talc powder, call the Wieand Law Firm at (215) 666-7777 to set up a free, completely confidential legal consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
What is Talcum Powder?
Talcum powder, which is also known as, talc, is best known as an ingredient in baby powder. Talc is an inorganic mineral and is composed of magnesium trisilicate, which is mined from the Earth. In addition, it is also an ingredient in thousands of cosmetics, feminine hygiene products, contraceptives (condoms and diaphragms), deodorants, anti-chafing products, and more. Talcum is a silicate mineral comprised of magnesium, silicon, and dioxide. In its natural form, talcum also contains asbestos, a known human carcinogen. However, all consumer talcum products became asbestos-free in 1973. Talcum powder is found in many familiar products particularly those made by Johnson & Johnson including Baby Powder, Shower-to-Shower wash.
Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer
Several studies have linked talcum powder and its use to ovarian cancer. In 1971, Dr. WJ Henderson conducted a study which first suggested the correlation between use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer, noting a direct correlation between women using talcum powder around their genitals and developing ovarian cancer.
This was not an isolated study and was followed up by an epidemiologic study performed in 1982 by Dr. Daniel Cramer. Dr. Cramer’s study found that there was a staggering 92% increased risk of ovarian cancer in women who reported using talc in their genital region.
Over thirty years ago Dr. Cramer met with representatives from Johnson & Johnson and suggested that they put a warning label on their product. However, his advice was not followed, and for decades, Johnson & Johnson continued to market their product, without warning, as a product that would provide freshness and comfort and would eliminate friction. Since 1982 when Dr. Cramer supported the earlier study by Dr. Cardill, there have been over twenty-two studies which all provided data regarding the association between talc and ovarian cancer.
Talcum Powder Class Action Lawsuit vs Individual Cases
There is a difference between individual personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits for ovarian cancer and the class action lawsuit which has been filed against Johnson & Johnson. Individual persons may benefit from filing an their own personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. These types of cases are distinguishable from the talcum powder class actions as each plaintiff has a separate and distinct claim for damages. This means that each plaintiff who is victorious will recover a separate and discrete settlement or award. This is different from the talcum powder class action lawsuit, where the settlement or award would compensate the class as a whole, and then be apportioned among class members.
What Damages are Recoverable?
As consumers become more knowledgeable of the talcum powder claims against Johnson & Johnson, even more women are coming forward and filing their cases against the company. Many of these women have endured expensive medical treatments, lost time with family and friends, had to leave their employers, and may have even lost their lives. Victims are seeking both compensatory damages for their injuries, as well as punitive damages, which are described in greater detail below.
Compensatory Damages are a type of monetary compensation that is designed to reimburse the plaintiff for harms that were caused by the defendant. The concept of compensatory damages is to place the victim in the place and condition they would have been in had the injury or damage not occurred. In these talc powder cases compensatory damages can be awarded for the following:
- Medical Expenses: Plaintiff may recover the cost of past and future medical expenses that result from an accident or injury. This includes any expenses incurred from rehabilitative care. The plaintiff must prove any medical expenses incurred were necessary and the services received were fair and reasonable. Plaintiff should keep copies of all medical bills so it is easy to quantify the total amount of expenses incurred.
- Incidental Expenses: Plaintiff may recover any incidental expenses, other than medical, stemming from defendant’s conduct. This may include any household help hired following an accident, alterations to living quarters following a debilitating injury to make them livable, and transportation and lodging costs if specialized treatment is required out of state.
- Loss of Earnings: Plaintiff may recover compensation for lost income as a result of the accident. Plaintiff may also recover future income lost as a result of the inability to work due to injury from the accident.
- Loss of Earning Capacity: Plaintiff may recover for the loss of earning capacity if evidence shows defendant’s act or omission which caused injury to the plaintiff impaired his or her ability to earn, taking into account the potential opportunities to receive income that could have been pursued if not for defendant’s misconduct.
- Physical Pain and Suffering: Plaintiff may recover damages for the past and future physical pain and suffering although it is difficult to measure. It is designed to compensate the injured plaintiff for the physical distress caused by the incident immediately following, and often in the period of time following the incident in which the plaintiff continues to suffer.
- Disfigurement: Plaintiff may recover damages for a permanent disfigurement resulting from the accident although not limited to disfigurements visible to the ordinary observer. This includes amputations, scars, limps, speech defects, etc. The availability of corrective surgery does not automatically bar recovery for this type of damage.
- Emotional Distress: Plaintiff may recover damages for the severe mental distress caused as a result of the accident, including embarrassment and humiliation. This could result from a plaintiff’s feeling others “will regard [them] with aversion or dislike” due to a physical injury, imprisonment, defamatory statement, marriage disruption, etc. Some states require the distress to be so severe it actually manifests physical symptoms in order to recover damages for emotional distress. In Pennsylvania, however, this is not always necessary.
- Loss of Life’s Pleasures: Plaintiff may recover damages stemming from an inability to enjoy day-to-day activities the plaintiff enjoyed before the injury and the ability to engage in activities in the future. These can include hobbies and exercise, the ability to marry and have children, loss of the enjoyment of food, and loss of a sense of overall well-being.
- Loss of Consortium: A plaintiff’s spouse may be able to bring a claim for loss of consortium resulting from their spouse’s injury. These claims are designed to compensate for a loss of services, companionship, protection, and guidance from the spouse, as well as the loss of ability to maintain a sexual relationship.
- Wrongful Death: A claim for damages on behalf of survivors and victim’s beneficiaries.
Punitive Damages are another form of damages that may be awarded. These types of damages are designed to punish a defendant for their conduct and to discourage them and other similar people from engaging in similar reckless and outrageous conduct in the future. Pennsylvania allows for punitive damages only when a jury determines a defendant’s behavior was outrageous to the extent of showing a reckless disregard for the rights of others. Pennsylvania does not place a monetary cap on punitive or compensatory damages.
Time Limits on Personal Injury Lawsuits in Pennsylvania
In order to be able to file a case for personal injuries, such as developing ovarian cancer from using talc powder, you need to file your claim within a certain timeframe. Each state has enacted a series of laws called statutes of limitations, which sets a timeframe of when a case can be filed. In Pennsylvania, with limited exceptions, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is two years. (42 Pa. Con. Stat. Ann. section 5524).
While the statute of limitations is an unforgiving deadline, there are instances when it may be be tolled or extended. The discovery rule allows for a statute of limitation to be tolled until the plaintiff becomes aware of their injury, or reasonably should have become aware of their injury.
These talc powder cases provide a perfect example of the discovery rule. Here, a victim may not know the exact moment when ovarian cancer starts, or the cause of the cancer. In these cases, it may be possible to extend the statute of limitations and file a case even after the two year period has run. However, the victim must act quickly upon discovery of these facts to preserve their legal rights.
For a Talcum Powder Legal Consultation Contact a Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer
If you think you developed ovarian cancer due to talcum powder and would like to investigate a potential claim, call the Wieand Law Firm at 1 (215) 666-7777 or fill out a description of your claim in the online form.