Record $417M award in lawsuit linking baby powder to cancer

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A Los Angeles jury awarded a woman a $417 million verdict yesterday.

Los Angeles jury ordered the popular pharmaceutical company to compensate the whopping amount of $417 million to the victim Eva Echeverria, who developed terminal ovarian cancer due to continued use of Johnson & Johnson baby power.

Furthermore, Echeverria's lawsuit states that studies in 1982 linked the genital use of talcum powder with a 90% increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Echeverria's attorney, Mark Robinson, revealed his client is undergoing cancer treatment while hospitalized and told him she hoped the verdict would lead Johnson & Johnson to put additional warnings on its products.

But does talcum powder - a product that is probably sitting in your bathroom cabinet right now - really cause ovarian cancer?

A jury in St. Louis, Missouri awarded $110.5 million to a Virginia woman who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012 who claimed her illness was caused by her use of Johnson & Johnson's talcum powder-containing products for more than 40 years.

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In Monday's case, the jury awarded Ms. Echeverria $70 million in non-economic damages and $347 million in punitive damages. J&J is appealing the verdicts and in Ju ne succeeded in halting a trial in St Louis after the US Supreme Court made it more hard for out-of-state plaintiffs to join lawsuits in state courts that are deemed favourable to their claims.

Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said in a statement that the company will appeal the jury's decision.

Legal experts say the recent $417M awarded to a woman in a California district court against Johnson & Johnson (JNJ -1%) suggests forum-shopping, meaning plaintiffs seek to file cases in favorable jurisdictions. She used the company's baby powder on a daily basis beginning in the 1950s until 2016 and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. Some studies have found a small to moderate increase in cancer risk, but these studies tend to rely on women self-reporting. Scientific studies about this link have provided little to no evidence that the powder could cause ovarian cancer.

To get around the hindsight bias, researchers could track a group of healthy women over a number of years to find out if those that used talcum powder were more likely to develop ovarian cancer.

The company referred to a post by the National Cancer Institute, who wrote in a report that, "The weight of evidence does not support an association between perineal talc exposure and an increased risk of ovarian cancer".

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