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Trial Judge Reverses $417 Million Verdict in Talcum Powder Cancer Case

Citing jury misconduct and a lack of evidence, a California trial judge reversed a $417 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson in a case where a woman charged she got ovarian cancer from the company's talcum powder.

Judge Maren Nelson of Los Angeles Superior Court granted the company a new trial, citing several reasons:

  • Three jurors who voted against liability were improperly excluded from determining damages during deliberations.
  • There was no clear and convincing showing that J&J active with malice to support a punitive damages award.
  • There was insufficient proof of causation.
  • The parent company, which is a legally separate entity from its Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. subsidiary, can’t be held liable for failure to warn if it isn’t the one manufacturing and marketing the product.

Just last August a jury awarded $68 million in compensatory damages against the parent company and $2 million against the consumer unit, plus $340 million in punitive damages against the parent company and $7 million against the consumer unit.

The plaintiff was Eva Escheverra, 63, who had a 10-year fight with cancer that spread to her spleen, liver, kidneys, intestine, pancreas, and spine. She died after the verdict was returned. The case is Eva Echeverria v. Johnson & Johnson, No. BC628228 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The ruling is the second recent setback for talcum powder users. Last week a Missouri Appeals Court Vacated $72 Million Talc Cancer Verdict for a Non-Resident Plaintiff. It ruled that the trial court could not take jurisdiction over the company because its activities in Missouri did not give rise to the claims of non-residents who bought and used its products elsewhere.

Johnson & Johnson is facing 4,800 talcum powder claims in California, Missouri, New Jersey and Delaware state courts, as well as New Jersey federal court. The company faces 1,252 lawsuits in MDL 2738 in New Jersey before US District Judge Freda L. Wolfson, IN RE: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation. 

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