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Johnson & Johnson hit with $417 million verdict in talc lawsuit

The verdict, the culmination of a lawsuit filed by 63-year-old Eva Echeverria, is the largest of several talc-based lawsuits against the retailer.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

Flickr photo by <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/26191509863">Mike Mozart</a>.Flickr photo by Mike Mozart.

In a landmark lawsuit against retail giant Johnson & Johnson, a California jury has ordered the company to pay $417 million to a woman who sued the company, alleging that prolonged use of their famous talc-based baby powder for feminine hygiene gave her ovarian cancer, according to a Reuters report.

The verdict, the culmination of a lawsuit filed by 63-year-old Eva Echeverria, is the largest of numerous lawsuits that accuse Johnson & Johnson of ignoring studies that linked its baby powder and shower products to cancer and of failing to sufficiently warn customers of the cancer risks. Echeverria's suit was the first California talc case to go to trial, though there are hundreds more in process.

The verdict included $347 million in punitive damages and $70 million in compensatory damages, as a jury found there was a connection between Echeverria's cancer and her use of the baby powder, published reports said.

[Also: Embattled scope maker Olympus slapped with $6.6 million verdict in superbug outbreak case]

She testified that she had used the powder from 11 years old, and stopped in 2016 after seeing a news story about a woman with ovarian cancer who had also used the product. If there had been a warning on the product, she said she would have ceased to use it.

Echevarria was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007.

Johnson & Johnson currently faces 4,800 other claims nationwide similar to Echeverria's and are also dealing with $300 million in verdicts against them stemming from cases in Missouri. Numerous lawsuits are pending in that state as well.

Johnson & Johnson said it plans to appeal the verdict. "We will appeal today's verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson's Baby Powder.  In April, the National Cancer Institute's Physician Data Query Editorial Board wrote, 'The weight of evidence does not support an association between perineal talc exposure and an increased risk of ovarian cancer.' We are preparing for additional trials in the U.S. and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson's Baby Powder," said Carol Goodrich, spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson.

 Twitter: @BethJSanborn
Email the writer: beth.sandborn@himssmedia.com

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