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Plaintiff asserted talc in baby powder caused ovarian cancer

Amount:

$55,000,000

Type:

Verdict-Mixed

State:

Missouri

Venue:

St. Louis City

Court:

St. Louis County Circuit Court, 22nd

Injury Type(s):

cancer; gynecological-hysterectomy

Case Type:

Business Law – Conspiracy; Consumer Protection – Consumer Fraud; Products Liability – Failure to Warn, Household Products

Case Name:

Tiffany Hogans, Cheryl Alvarado, Cindy Armstrong, Luann Baker, Kristina Bennett, Wanda Bennett, Belinda J. Campbell, Surflourinia Campbell, Cheryl Caragan, Yvonne Carter, Alice Childress, Patricia Clarke, Debbie Davis, Vera Davis, Bonnie di Girolamo, Ilene Dixon, Lucille Dixon, Anna Duhon, David Englehardt on behalf of Cynthia Engelhardt, Jacqueline Fox, Jill Garrison, Irma Gaskin, Deborah Giannecchini, Susan Gustman, Robyn Hamby, Janice Hancock, Lykeisha Harrison, Molly Hawkins, Cynthia Holden, Barbara Jackson, Angela Johnson, Ginger Jordan, Melissa Keesee, Cindy King, Kim Kingsbury, Katherine Lett, Frankie Lewis, Joanne Marr, Sara McDowell, Micheline Michaud-Schevis, Janie Montgomery, Dorothy Patton, Sharon Pearson, Gina Pfau, Deborah Potter, Lynn Procter, et. al. v. Johnson & Johnson, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies Inc., Imerys Talc America Inc. f.k.a Luzenac America Inc. and Personal Care Products Council f.k.a. Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association,
No. 1422-CC09012-01

Date:

May 2, 2016

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Gina Pfau (Female), 

Angie Wait (Female), 

Anna Duhon (Female), 

Cindy King , 

Vera Davis (Female), 

Ilene Dixon (Female), 

Irma Gaskin (Female), 

Joanne Marr , 

Luann Baker (Female), 

Marie Shaut (Female), 

Robyn Hamby , 

Candy Setzer (Female), 

Debbie Davis (Female), 

Linda Rosato (Female), 

Lynn Procter (Female), 

Angela Turner (Female), 

Carole Sexton (Female), 

Frankie Lewis (Female), 

Ginger Jordan (Female), 

Jill Garrison , 

Kim Kingsbury (Female), 

Lucille Dixon , 

Lynette Selva (Female), 

Molly Hawkins (Female), 

Phyllis Smith (Female), 

Sara McDowell (Female), 

Susan Gustman (Female), 

Wanda Bennett (Female), 

Yvonne Carter (Female), 

Angela Johnson (Female), 

Cheryl Caragan (Female), 

Christy Uzzell (Female), 

Cynthia Holden (Female), 

Deborah Potter (Female), 

Dorothy Patton (Female), 

Jacqueline Fox (Female), 

Janalyn Rusack (Female), 

Janice Hancock (Female), 

Katherine Lett (Female), 

Melissa Keesee (Female), 

Sharon Pearson (Female), 

Tiffany Hogans (Female), 

Alice Childress (Female), 

Barbara Jackson (Female), 

Barbara Talucci (Female), 

Cheryl Alvarado (Female), 

Cindy Armstrong (Female), 

Frances Skitzki (Female), 

Mary Washington (Female), 

Patricia Clarke (Female), 

Claudia Rodrigue (Female), 

David Engelhardt (Male), 

Gloria Ristesund (Female, 57 Years), 

Heather Trujillo (Female), 

Janie Montgomery (Female), 

Kristina Bennett (Female), 

Caroline Shallman (Female), 

Lena Elaine Smith (Female), 

Lykeisha Harrison (Female), 

Bonnie di Girolamo (Female), 

Marianne Westerman (Female), 

Belinda J. Campbell (Female), 

Deborah Giannecchini (Female), 

Surflourinia Campbell (Female), 

Micheline Michaud-Schevis (Female)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Ted G. Meadows;
Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C.;
Montgomery,
AL,
for
Gloria Ristesund ■ Danielle W. Mason;
Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C.;
Montgomery,
AL,
for
Gloria Ristesund ■ David Dearing;
Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C.;
Montgomery,
AL,
for
Gloria Ristesund ■ Allen Smith;
Smith Law Firm, PLLC;
Ridgeland,
MS,
for
Gloria Ristesund ■ W. Wylie Blair;
Onder, Shelton, O’Leary & Peterson, LLC;
St. Louis,
MO,
for
Gloria Ristesund

Plaintiff Expert(s):

John Godleski; M.D.; Pathology; Boston,
MA called by:
Ted G. Meadows, Danielle W. Mason, David Dearing, Allen Smith, W. Wylie Blair ■ David Steinberg; Labels & Warnings; Plainsboro,
NJ called by:
Ted G. Meadows, Danielle W. Mason, David Dearing, Allen Smith, W. Wylie Blair ■ Daniel Cramer; M.D., Sc.D.; Epidemiology (Cancer); Boston,
MA called by:
Christy D. Jones, Gene M. Williams ■ Graham Colditz; M.D.; Epidemiology (Cancer); St. Louis,
MO called by:
Ted G. Meadows, Danielle W. Mason, David Dearing, Allen Smith, W. Wylie Blair

Defendant(s):

Johnson & Johnson, 

Imerys Talc America Inc., 

Personal Care Products Council, 

Johnson & Johnson Consumer Cos. Inc.

Defense Attorney(s):

Christy D. Jones;
Butler Snow LLP;
Ridgeland,
MS,
for
Johnson & Johnson, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Cos. Inc. ■ Gene M. Williams;
Shook, Hardy & Bacon, L.L.P.;
Houston,
TX,
for
Johnson & Johnson, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Cos. Inc. ■ Kenneth J. Ferguson;
Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani, LLP;
Austin,
TX,
for
Imerys Talc America Inc. ■ Nancy Erfle;
Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani, LLP;
Portland,
OR,
for
Imerys Talc America Inc.

Defendant Expert(s):

Kurt Barnhart;
OB-GYN;
Philadelphia,
PA called by:
Kenneth J. Ferguson, Nancy Erfle ■ Larry Copeland;
Gynecologic Oncology;
Hilliard,
OH called by:
Christy D. Jones, Gene M. Williams ■ Lewis Chodosh;
Cell Biology;
Philadelphia,
PA called by:
Kenneth J. Ferguson, Nancy Erfle ■ Robert Kurman;
Pathology;
Baltimore,
MD called by:
Christy D. Jones, Gene M. Williams

Facts:

On Aug. 16, 2011, plaintiff Gloria Ristesund, 57, a saleswoman, was diagnosed with endometrioid carcinoma, a form of ovarian cancer. For 40 years, she had used Johnson’s Baby Powder, a product manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, for feminine hygene. The powder incorporated talc purchased from Imerys Talc America Inc. Ristesund sued Johnson & Johnson and Imerys, alleging that the companies failed to warn of the cancer risk of the talc in the product, despite knowledge of the danger (the failure-to-warn claim against Imerys was later withdrawn). Ristesund also claimed that Johnson & Johnson and Imerys were negligent and engaged in conspiracy. Johnson & Johnson’s internal documents supported the allegations, counsel contended. In 2006, according to counsel, Imerys began including a warning that talc is a possible carcinogen in the material safety data sheets it provided to Johnson & Johnson with talc shipments but Johnson & Johnson continued to market the product as safe for feminine hygiene without warnings. Plaintiff’s counsel maintained both defendants acted together to withhold from the public the data concerning the risk and also released false and misleading statements regarding the safety of talc. (Sixty-five other women were named as plaintiffs in the suit, but all cases were to be tried separately. The one case tried prior to Rustesund’s suit, on behalf of the estate of Jacqueline Fox, went to trial in February 2016 and ended in a $72,000,000 verdict for Fox. The Personal Care Products Council, a trade association of which Johnson & Johnson is a member, was originally named as a plaintiff but was dismissed, prior to trial.) Ristesund’s labels and warnings expert testified that Johnson & Johnson had not acted reasonably by failing to provide warnings. Her epidemiology experts testified that a statistically significant link had been established between ovarian cancer and talc exposure, and her pathology expert testified that talc was found in tissues removed from Ristesund during a hysterectomy following her cancer diagnosis. Johnson & Johnson and Imerys denied that Ristesund’s cancer was clearly caused by talc exposure. Counsel pointed out that the Food and Drug Administration had stated in 2014 there was no conclusive evidence of a link between talc-based hygiene products and ovarian cancer. The companies’ epidemiologist testified that no association with ovarian cancer had been established. A pathologist testified that he had found tissue within Ristesund’s tumor that showed signs of endometriosis in the affected ovary and that endometriosis had been associated with development of endometrioid ovarian cancer. Counsel maintained endometriosis was the actual cause of Risesund’s cancer, rather than talc exposure. Plaintiff’s counsel disputed the claim endometriosis was the sole cause of the cancer, arguing that none of the intermediate forms of cancer cells associated with the progression from endometriosis to ovarian cancer had been found and that the cause could have been a combination of endometriosis and talc exposure. Based on the limited evidence, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, classifies asbestos-free talc, used the perineal (genital) area, as "possibly carcinogenic to humans."

Injury:

Ristesund asserted that by the time her cancer was detected, the tumor was about the size of a softball. She elected to undergo an immediate hysterectomy, which was performed on Aug. 16, 2011. She was hospitalized for two weeks. She elected not to undergo chemotherapy or other follow-up treatment, instead opting for regular medical monitoring. The surgery was deemed a success, with periodic testing finding no trace of cancerous cells. By the time of trial, Ristesund’s treating physician had determined that the chances that the cancer would recur were negligible and her testing should be reduced in frequency to a yearly basis, but that this testing should continue for the rest of her life. Ristesund stated that she continues to experience emotional distress and anxiety about the possible recurrence of her cancer, often interpreting any type of abdominal pain as a possible cancer symptom, and that this emotional distress will continue for the foreseeable future. She sought $175,000 for past medical expenses. She also sought an unspecified amount for future medical expenses, past and future pain and suffering, emotional distress, and punitive damages.

Result:

The jury found that Johnson & Johnson had failed to warn of the dangers of its product. The jury found in favor of Johnson & Johnson and Imerys on the claim of conspiracy. It found negligence on the part of Johnson & Johnson but not Imerys. Ristesund was awarded $5 million in actual damages and $50 million in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson. Imerys paid no damages to Ristesund.

Trial Information:

Judge:

Rex Burlison

Trial Length:

3
 weeks

Trial Deliberations:

10
 hours

Jury Composition:

3 men 9 women

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by counsel for plaintiff and Johnson & Jonhnson. Counsel for Imrys did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls.