Plaintiff Petitions for Multidistrict Litigation in Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Cases

A plaintiff in a talcum powder lawsuit has petitioned the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to centralize all ovarian cancer lawsuits into a multidistrict litigation (MDL). The venue suggested in the motion is the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Illinois.

At least 11 product liability claims involving talcum powder and ovarian cancer have already been filed in federal jurisdictions, according to a news release. Because the plaintiffs reside in several different states, the court in Illinois “would permit convenient travel for the parties and counsel as compared to travel to the East or West Coast.” Coordinated pretrial proceedings would eliminate duplication in the discovery phase and “inconsistent court rulings,” according to an attorney familiar with the litigation.Pending talcum powder lawsuits share similar allegations about the connection between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer. Plaintiffs allege that regular applications of Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower powders to the genitals can increase a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer. The American Cancer Society explains that minute talc particles can make their way into the vagina and travel to the ovaries. Talc particles can produce inflammation that promotes the growth of cancer cells. Though a number of studies that have appeared since the 1970s have suggested such a link, the lawsuits claim Johnson & Johnson has not warned women of the possible risk.

African-American women report significantly higher use of talcum powder in the genital area than other women. A 2015 study in Los Angeles found that 44 percent of African-American women said they used talcum powder, compared to 30 percent of white women and 29 percent of Hispanic women. A Johnson & Johnson company memorandum that surfaced in recent lawsuits shows that in the 1990s, Johnson & Johnson had a plan to raise slumping sales of talcum powder by targeting black and Hispanic women.

Two talcum powder cases that went to trial this year resulted in damage awards for the plaintiffs. In the first case, a Missouri jury awarded $72 million to the family of an Alabama woman who died from ovarian cancer in fall 2015. The woman had filed the lawsuit after her diagnosis and her son became the plaintiff after she died. In May, another jury awarded $55 million to a cancer survivor, National Law Journal reports.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says about 20,000 American women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year; about 14,000 die from the disease. Ovarian cancer often goes undetected at the early stages. Ovarian cancer symptoms can be vague and are often dismissed as menstrual or abdominal discomfort. Because there is no approved screening test for ovarian cancer, the disease is often not diagnosed until later stages, when it is harder to treat and the woman’s prognosis is worse.

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