In a major win for plaintiffs, a federal judge has ruled that scientific experts can testify before juries on behalf of women who claim talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer. For years, defendant Johnson & Johnson called the evidence supporting the link between talc and cancer “junk science.” The judge’s ruling specifically addressed five of the scientific experts for the plaintiffs and three of the defense experts, setting up opposing testimony in future J&J talcum powder lawsuits.

“This decision shows that solid science wins over corporate spin, allowing our clients to move their cases forward and pursue the results they deserve,” said Sanders Phillips Grossman attorney Vicki Maniatis.

J&J Sought to Bar Experts

Johnson & Johnson faces more than 16,000 talc lawsuits in a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) overseen by U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson of New Jersey, where J&J is headquartered. Wolfson rejected J&J’s effort to prevent plaintiffs’ experts from testifying that the company’s baby powder contains asbestos and can cause ovarian cancer, thwarting J&J’s attempt to eliminate all 16,000+ cases.

On April 27, Wolfson ruled that plaintiff experts are justified in claiming a statistical association between genital talc use and ovarian cancer. “The experts…provided good grounds for their decisions to place significant weight on the strength of association factor,” said Wolfson. “Defendants have not presented any compelling grounds for the court to find otherwise.”

While Wolfson will permit plaintiffs’ experts to testify at trial, it is not without some limitations. The Judge found that Anne McTiernan, an epidemiologist, and Dr. Daniel Clarke-Pearson, an oncologist, can testify for plaintiffs on general causation (i.e., that talc products can cause ovarian cancer), but cannot testify as to their theory that ovarian cancer may be caused by inhaling talcum powder. She also found that William Longo of Materials Analytical Services can testify about asbestos in J&J talc products, but won’t be allowed to opine on whether talc users were exposed to asbestos (albeit this is not the point Dr. Longo was presented for).

Have you been diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using J&J’s Baby Powder for feminine hygiene? Receive a free case review.

Two Experts Previously Testified Before House Committee

Longo and McTiernan testified last year during Congressional hearings to examine the safety of consumer talc products. The first hearing was ordered following the FDA’s finding of asbestos in cosmetic products marketed to children. A second hearing was convened in December 2019 after the FDA announced the discovery of asbestos in Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder. According to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, “since the 1960s, scientists have identified a link between ovarian cancer and the use of powders containing talc.” J&J, however, denies that its talc causes cancer.

An expert in materials science, Longo testified to Congress about the best testing methods for detecting asbestos in talc. He said that methods used by J&J are not sensitive enough to detect asbestos even when it is present. Plaintiffs’ attorneys plan to use Longo’s testimony regarding his testing of 72 historical talc samples from J&J from the 1960s to early 2000s, which found an overall 69% positive result.

McTiernan is a cancer prevention researcher in the Epidemiology Program, Division of Public Health Sciences, at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. She testified to Congress that, based on epidemiological data, “use of talcum powder products in the genital/perineal area can cause ovarian cancer.” Plaintiffs sufficiently demonstrated to the court that Dr. McTiernan is qualified to conduct a type of analysis called Bradford Hill. This methodology uses nine criteria to establish epidemiologic evidence of an exposure-disease relationship.

Sanders Phillips Grossman Helping to Lead J&J Talc Lawsuits

Sanders Phillips Grossman is a national leader in talcum powder litigation. Attorney Vicki Maniatis is one of seventeen lawyers from across the country appointed to the Plaintiff’s Steering Committee of the J&J MDL. And recently, SPG added Danielle Mason, a member of the team that secured nearly $1 billion in verdicts against J&J. Vicki and Danielle head up SPG’s talcum powder litigation team as federal cases now proceed towards trial.

Talcum powder users who wish to discuss their legal rights should contact Vicki at vmaniatis@thesandersfirm.com or Danielle at dmason@thesandersfirm.com. You can also call  1-800-530-9800 or Contact Us.