In August, a California jury awarded Eva Echeverria $417 million in a lawsuit alleging that Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder caused her ovarian cancer. J&J promised to appeal the verdict, and a new judge ruled last week that the award be tossed.
Echeverria alleged that after decades of use, J&J products caused ovarian cancer. She and her lawyers accused J&J of knowing of 30 years’ worth of studies linking talc use on the genitals with ovarian cancer, but still encouraging women to use its products. Talc is one of the ingredients in talcum powder. Some versions of baby powder use cornstarch rather than talc. J&J argued that there have been no definitive studies on the carcinogenicity of talc powder.
According to the American Cancer Society, studies examining a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer have been mixed. They conclude that if there is an increased risk, “the overall increase is likely to be very small.”
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Maren Nelson granted J&J’s appeal, saying that there was not sufficient evidence to prove that the company acted with malice and that the amount of money awarded in damages was excessive. Nelson also said that there were errors and jury misconduct in the previous trial.
“Ovarian cancer is a devastating disease—but it is not caused by the cosmetic-grade talc we have used in Johnson’s Baby Powder for decades. The science is clear and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder as we prepare for additional trials in the U.S.,” said Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Carol Goodrich in a statement.
Since the previous trial, Echeverria has died, but her lawyers say that the decision will appealed regardless.
“We will continue to fight on behalf of all women who have been impacted by this dangerous product,” said her attorney, Mark Robison Jr., in a statement.
Several other lawsuits have been filed, making similar claims, but Echeverria’s case resulted in the highest award. Overall, jury awards have totaled hundreds of millions of dollars. However, a Missouri appellate court recently threw out a $72 million award to an Alabama woman, saying that Missouri was not the proper jurisdiction for the case.