In 1894, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) started selling talcum powder, which quickly became one of its most popular products. At first, the company marketed the powder as a treatment for skin irritation. That changed in the early 1900s when J&J decided to promote it as a cosmetic and feminine hygiene product.
Nearly 70 years later, scientists found a possible link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, but Johnson & Johnson continued selling the product until 2020. Learn more about the talcum powder ovarian cancer settlement and find out who qualifies for payment.
What Is Talcum Powder?
Talcum powder is a product containing talc, a natural mineral containing hydrogen, oxygen, silicon and magnesium. Although there’s nothing harmful about these four elements, talc-based products sometimes contain asbestos fibers. Asbestos can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other serious illnesses when inhaled. Additionally, asbestos exposure has been linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
Although Johnson & Johnson knew about the potentially harmful effects of talc in the 1950s, it continued selling its talcum powder products. The company’s marketing team heavily promoted the product, aiming several marketing campaigns at Black and plus-sized women. Johnson & Johnson representatives even distributed talcum powder samples at salons, churches and other gathering places for women in its target audience, all without mentioning the known potential risks.
Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer
When talcum powder is applied to the groin, the fine powder particles can enter the body and settle in the ovaries. These reproductive organs are responsible for several important functions, such as producing eggs and controlling the amount of estrogen in the body. Ovarian cancer causes symptoms like:
- Weight loss
- Feeling full after eating very little food
- Abdominal swelling
- Back pain
- Urinary frequency
- Pelvic pain
Ovarian cancer is difficult to diagnose because many of these symptoms are nonspecific with several potential causes. For example, abdominal pain may be caused by appendicitis, gallbladder problems, gastritis and dozens of other problems. Therefore, many cases of ovarian cancer aren’t diagnosed right away. This delay gives the cancer more time to grow, making it more likely to spread to the intestines, uterus and other body parts.
Surgery and chemotherapy are the most common treatments for ovarian cancer. They’re both hard on the body, so some women experience lasting complications. People with ovarian cancer and their family members may even need to miss work or put off their schooling to get the treatment they need.
A Timeline of the Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Settlement
At first, the link between talc powder and ovarian cancer wasn’t well-publicized. When people finally discovered the cancer risks associated with talcum powder, they filed product liability lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and other companies. Many lawsuits were combined into multidistrict litigation (MDL), a legal proceeding that streamlines the litigation process. Rather than handling each lawsuit individually, the courts use MDL to handle many class action lawsuits at one time.
In one case, a jury awarded the plaintiffs more than $2 million. Johnson & Johnson appealed, but the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the verdict should stand, mostly because the plaintiffs presented evidence that J&J employees were aware of the risks and continued selling the powder anyway. After the Supreme Court made its decision, Johnson & Johnson created a separate limited liability company (LLC), moved its potential liabilities to the new company and then filed for bankruptcy. This is known as a “Texas two-step,” and it’s a common way for companies to try to avoid paying out large sums of money.
Fortunately, the talcum powder lawsuit plaintiffs had the opportunity to present their objections in court. The first bankruptcy was nullified, but J&J filed again in April 2023. This time, the bankruptcy filing includes protections for the plaintiffs. For example, the company has agreed to set aside more than $8 billion to pay claims from the talcum powder ovarian cancer settlement. The new decision hasn’t been approved yet, so the plaintiffs need to wait for the bankruptcy court to decide what happens next.
Filing a Talcum Powder Lawsuit
If you or a loved one developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder or similar products from other retailers, you may be able to file a lawsuit. A successful product liability lawsuit may help pay for your medical expenses or cover related costs. For example, if you had to quit your job due to your illness, you may be able to get compensation for your lost wages. Some people also recover funds to pay for in-home care or hire someone to perform household tasks they can no longer do.
Finding the right attorney is one of the most important steps in filing an ovarian cancer lawsuit. Look for someone who has experience filing product liability claims against large corporations. A brand-new attorney isn’t the right person to handle such complex litigation. Before you meet with an attorney, write down everything you can remember about your case, such as how often you used talcum powder, how you applied it and what brand(s) you used. This information can help your attorney determine your eligibility.
It’s also helpful to gather medical bills and other documents related to your care. The more expenses you have, the more money you may be able to get from a talcum powder ovarian cancer settlement. There’s no guarantee of winning any type of lawsuit, but getting organized and finding the right attorney can improve your chances of prevailing in court.
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