Judge Tosses $417 Million Award in Ovarian Cancer Lawsuit Against Johnson & Johnson

The largest ruling yet was overturned by a California judge on Oct. 20. 
BY Brielle Urciuoli
PUBLISHED October 23, 2017
A California judge reversed the decision to award a woman more than $400 million after she claimed that Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based Baby Powder product caused her ovarian cancer.

The August ruling awarded $417 million to 63-year-old Eva Echeverria — the largest yet in a string of allegations against Johnson & Johnson linking their popular product to the disease.

Echeverria died on Sept. 20, 2017, but her daughter stepped in as the Acting Trustee of the 2017 Eva Echeverria Living Trust. She acted as plaintiff when the case came back into the courtroom this month, following Johnson & Johnson’s request for a retrial.

According to Superior Court of California court documents, Judge Maren Nelson ruled, “In an action alleging that a product causes cancer, giving rise to a duty to warn, causation must be proven with a reasonable medical probability based upon competent expert testimony. Mere possibility alone is insufficient to establish a prima facie case.”

Although some studies presented during the trial showed that talcum powder might have an impact on the chances a woman develops ovarian cancer, there were no peer-reviewed articles published that definitively linked the two.

Echeverria was not the first person to go after Johnson & Johnson claiming its Baby Powder caused cancer, and she may not be the last. In fact, more than 1,000 women in the United States have sued the company.

However, Echeverria is not the first person to have an award revoked, either.

Days before the decision on Echeverria’s case was thrown out, the Missouri appellate court reversed another ruling — this time for $72 million — for an Alabama woman who also claimed that Baby Powder gave her ovarian cancer. The court determined that the case, which happened in St. Louis, Missouri, was tried in the wrong jurisdiction.

Johnson & Johnson released a statement regarding the recent ruling in California saying, “We are pleased with Judge Maren Nelson's ruling. 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.”

Echeverria’s attorney said the decision will be appealed.
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