Recent multi-million dollar plaintiffs’ verdicts against Johnson & Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri have provided plaintiffs’ across the nation with a blueprint for establishing a causal link between the development of ovarian cancer and the use of talcum powder by relying on inconclusive scientific studies at trial. There are currently over a thousand talc cases pending in Missouri, which should be no surprise given that over the last two years there have been seven talc trials that have resulted in six verdicts totaling 300 million dollars in damages against Johnson & Johnson. With only 300 talc cases pending in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Los Angeles is not presently the hot bed of talc litigation. However, all that could change now that trial has started in Eva Echeverria v. Johnson & Johnson, (LASC Case No. BC628228), the first talc case set for trial in Los Angeles County.
Plaintiff Eva Echeverria, alleges she used Johnson & Johnson's talcum based baby powder and absorbent body powder for decades. She claims that her exposure to talcum powder was a substantial factor in causing her ovarian cancer, as well as causing her pain and suffering. Ms. Echeverria is represented by Allen Smith of the Smith Law Firm in Mississippi. Notably, Mr. Smith served as lead trial counsel for all of the prior talc trials. With opening statements having been delivered on July 26, 2017, the Smith Law Firm seeks to bring what has thus far been an overwhelmingly successful trial strategy to the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The naturally occurring talc mineral is commonly associated with its use in baby powder and is also a common ingredient in many other hygiene and cosmetic products. Studies suggesting a connection between the talc mineral and the development of cancer go as far back as the 1970s, when scientists in Wales discovered talc particles present in ovarian and cervical tumors extracted from women.
The conclusions of these studies vary immensely. One recent study found that the use of talcum powder on the genital area promoted an increased risk in women for invasive epithelial ovarian cancer by 44 percent. Another study involving 20,000 women found that talcum powder use was associated with a 24 percent increased risk for ovarian cancer. And yet another study involving 61,576 women found no relationship between talcum powder use and cancer development. Notwithstanding the inconclusive state of the scientific community, the Smith Law Firm has managed to obtain six plaintiffs verdicts out of the last seven talc cases tried by successfully cherry-picking the most favorable studies (those suggesting the strongest correlation of talcum powder use and cancer development.)
The result of Eva Echeverria v. Johnson & Johnson will certainly have an impact on future talc litigation. Indeed, should Plaintiff’s counsel obtain a high profile win, the number of talc case will likely explode above and beyond the 300 currently pending in Los Angeles Superior Court.