As Johnson & Johnson faces thousands of U.S. lawsuits over potential cancer risks of its talc-based products, a California jury ordered the company Monday to pay $417 million in damages to a terminally ill woman.
Eva Echeverria, 63, who is undergoing treatment in hospital for ovarian cancer, testified through a video deposition that she’d used Johnson’s Baby Powder for feminine hygiene for more than 50 years before halting the practice in 2016, the Los Angeles Times reported. She only stopped after watching a news story about a woman with ovarian cancer who had also used the talc for a similar purpose, she said.
At the time, Echeverria had already been treated for ovarian cancer for almost a decade.
Agreeing with the plaintiff that there was a connection between her cancer and her use of Johnson & Johnson’s products containing talc, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury awarded Echeverria $70 million in compensatory damages and $347 million, a record total in punitive damages on Monday.
As Reuters notes, the verdict was the largest sum that’s been awarded in a series of talcum powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson.
In May, a jury in St. Louis, Missouri, ordered the company to pay $110.5 million to a 62-year-old Virginia woman, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products for many decades.
The company lost three other similar trials in Missouri last year, which it paid out a total of more than $300 million in damages for.
Speaking after the verdict, Echeverria’s lawyer said his client hoped her court win would compel Johnson & Johnson to clearly label their talc products with health warnings.
“Mrs. Echeverria is dying from this ovarian cancer and she said to me all she wanted to do was to help the other women throughout the whole country who have ovarian cancer for using Johnson & Johnson for 20 and 30 years,” Mark Robinson told The Associated Press. “She really didn’t want sympathy. She just wanted to get a message out to help these other women.”
In a statement, Johnson & Johnson said it would appeal Monday’s verdict “because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder.”
The company is currently facing almost 5,000 similar claims across the United States, according to Reuters.
Definitive scientific evidence linking talcum powder use to cancer is lacking. However, the American Cancer Society notes that some studies have suggested “a very slight increase in risk of ovarian cancer in women who used talc on the genital area.”
The organization added that cornstarch powders, which can be used as an alternative to talc-based ones, have not been linked to any female cancers.