A decades-old brand of popular talcum powder that was once a woman's household staple has come under fire in recent years for the manufacturer's withholding of damaging documentation that could've saved thousands of lives and prevented as many from suffering diagnoses of ovarian cancer after using the product for an extended period of time. So, why did the manufacturer withhold scientific studies linked to undeniable proof that women who utilized their talcum powder as part of a daily hygiene routine were at a higher risk for ovarian cancer? The answer may just lie in the fact that for large companies, money gained is worth more than the lives lost.
Manufacturer Johnson & Johnson has been at the center of thousands of Class Action claims as a result of their decision to prioritize profits over human life, thusly causing thousands of women around the country the agony of a cancer diagnosis. While some cancer is genetically linked to familiar history of the disease, the ovarian cancer caused by Johnson & Johnson's line of talcum powder was completely preventable, had the company released the scientific studies that were available to them over the course of decades. The company may have taken a financial loss on the line of products, but thousands of lives would not have ended in tragedy, and to the public it's obvious what was more important to J & J.
With Johnson & Johnson in the hot seat for the thousands of wrongful deaths directly linked to their products, it's timely that the Shaked Law Blog looks at the facts of these cases and what, if anything, could have been done to create a safer and more viable product that served the same purpose for millions of women, safely.
What is talcum powder?
For many decades, talcum powder has been used to "freshen up", absorb moisture in hotter months and in year-round warm climates, and certain talcum products have even been branded for use on "sensitive skin". These products were designed to be a part of a woman's daily hygiene routine, and there's no denying that the products had a pleasant and familiar scent. Now, however, revelations have come to light through multiple medical studies indicating that there's a direct causation between using talcum substances for personal hygiene and the onset of ovarian cancer. Studies now show that the increased risk is nearly as high as 35% or more when the product is used for an extended period of time.
But, what is talc, exactly? Talcum powder is a fine, grainy substance made from "talc", composed of elements such as magnesium, oxygen, silicon and smaller or trace amounts of other minerals. When powdered, studies show that talc is a moisture absorber capable of reducing friction in sensitive areas of the body. Using the powder on sensitive areas however, studies have shown, caused small talc particles to travel to the ovaries–this causes an inflammatory response.
Hiding in plain sight
Studies show that since the early 1970s, scientists were already conducting research into the presence of talc particles found in ovarian cancer cells. In the early 1990s, another study supported the research that found women who used talcum powder in direct contact with their body on a daily to regular basis had a largely increased risk of developing ovarian cancer over their lifetime. Following the studies conducted between the 70s and into the 90s, unbiased medical research has also supported the conclusion that with repeated use of talcum powder, the risk of cancer significantly increases.
These studies–and the fact that Johnson & Johnson was aware of their existence–are cause for the litigation that the multi-billion-dollar company now finds themselves at the center of. With the studies in hand, J & J had what's known as "foreseeability" and failed to act accordingly with that knowledge. As a refresher, "foreseeability" is the knowledge that something potentially dangerous could happen if the party or parties involved do not correct the problem. When "foreseeability" is neglected, a company becomes liable for any negative outcome–in this case thousands of cases of ovarian cancer over the course of decades–that may occur as a result of their lack of action.
strict product liability at its finest
As we've discussed in previous articles on the subject of Strict Product Liability: this liability applies to products purchased with the expectation that they will perform as expected, causing no harm to the consumer. This law applies to every consumer product. In this case, Strict Product Liability would be applied over and above the multi-million-dollar settlements awarded to victims and surviving family members of those who suffered as a result of Johnson & Johnson's withholding of known risks. Strict Product Liability would provide further damages awarded to those victims. To apply the legal theory of Strict Product Liability in a court of law, three specific factors must be met without exception:
- The product must be considered “unreasonably dangerous” in regard to its defect (in the case of talcum powder the significantly increased risk of cancer from appropriate and "normal" use of the product is more than sufficient).
- The defective product caused the victim injury while it was being used in the way that’s considered reasonable (intended to be used). In the case of talcum powder, the expectation that the consumer will benefit from softer and less irritated skin only to find that the product caused their cancer is considered unreasonable on the part of the manufacturer. The consumer did nothing that would have caused the product to have posed a risk to their health.
- The product hasn’t been modified from the condition in which it was originally purchased. The word “substantially” usually applies in this instance. For example: leaving certain products in too warm or too cold temperatures and then using them regardless may cause them not to work as expected, causing injury or damage to property. In the case of talcum powder, even when stored correctly, used as directed, and thrown away after the expiration date, the product was still linked to thousands of cases of ovarian cancer in women.
While talcum powder lawsuits involve a great deal of different factors including but limited to wrongful death actions, a judge would consider that aside from any wrongful death, cancer diagnosis as a result of using the product, or negligence that may have occurred as a result of Johnson & Johnson's failure to disclose scientific facts they were in possession of for decades–Strict Product Liability damages are also appropriate when deciding how much compensation each member of a Class is awarded at the conclusion of a trial.
Remember: the most important aspect of a successful Class Action lawsuit is to retain an attorney with experience in these types of cases, who has tried them successfully in the past, so as not to prolong an already lengthy legal process. Class Action lawsuits usually take years to settle, but a board certified civil trial attorney who stands by their client will be able to see the case through to a conclusion where compensation is awarded and justice prevails.
Learn more about the life-threatening risks of using talcum powder by visiting our Class Action website at classactionlawsuit.legal