PHILADELPHIA – In the city’s first ovarian cancer trial alleging injuries from Johnson & Johnson’s baby talcum powder, a Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas jury on Sept. 24 absolved J&J of responsibility that its baby powder caused a woman to develop ovarian cancer.
According to a Law.com story and case documents, Ellen and Yuri Kleiner sued J&J and other talc defendants in 2017 alleging that her 2011 ovarian cancer diagnosis was caused by her more than 30-year use of J&J’s baby powder. In their lawsuit, the Kleiners named as defendants J&J, Rite Aid Corporation, Imerys Talc America, Inc., and Personal Care Products Council. Aside from J&J, the other defendants were dismissed prior to trial.
At trial, counsel for the Kleiners alleged that J&J knew for decades that its talcum powder products were contaminated with asbestos and that its talc caused ovarian cancer, yet failed to warn consumers and the public. J&J defense counsel argued that the company’s talc products are not contaminated and that there is no causal link between talc use and ovarian cancer—pointing to a number of medical, scientific, and regulatory bodies that have deemed it to be safe.
Kleiner alleged J&J knew about potential links between talcum powder and cancer cases dating back to the 1940s, but that it had failed to warn the public about the risks.
Defense counsel, meanwhile, said that scientific, medical, and regulatory authorities had all rejected potential links between talcum powder and incidents of ovarian cancer.
In court filings, J&J’s legal team pointed to other complicating factors that could have contributed to Kleiner’s cancer, including her Ashkenazi Jewish descent.
In a statement issued after the verdict, J&J stated, “after careful consideration of the science and facts presented at trial, another jury unanimously agreed that Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe and does not cause cancer. Despite the lack of any scientific evidence to support their claims, the plaintiff trial bar continues to push forward with its misinformation campaign to drive baseless and inflammatory headlines in the hopes they can force a resolution of these cases. The claims by these lawyers are unfounded and it is clear the only interest they have is their own financial gain. We deeply sympathize with anyone suffering from cancer and know they are seeking answers. That’s why the facts are so important—and the facts are that research, clinical evidence and over 40 years of studies by independent medical experts around the world continue to support the safety of cosmetic talc.”
After a 5-week trial the jury deliberated for 2 days before rendering the defense verdict. Following the verdict, according to Law360, plaintiff counsel said that the Kleiner’s intended to appeal the decision.
The case is Ellen Kleiner et al. v. Johnson & Johnson et al., No. 1701-02505, Pa. Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County.