Big verdict doesn't assure more wins for plaintiffs in talc-cancer cases

Fri Feb 26, 2016 8:09am EST
 
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By Jessica Dye

NEW YORK(Reuters) - The $72 million verdict this week against Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N: Quote) in a U.S. case alleging links between talc-based powder and ovarian cancer has prompted global headlines, social media buzz and calls to lawyers from would-be plaintiffs.

But the attention-grabbing judgment is no guarantee future plaintiffs will be able to convince juries the company's products caused their illnesses.

About 1,200 similar cases are pending, primarily in Missouri and New Jersey state courts, but the facts are different in every one.

And even in cases with similar evidence and expert testimony, juries in mass personal-injury litigation can

come to different conclusions.

While the survivors of Jacqueline Fox were awarded $72 million by a St. Louis jury Monday, jurors in a federal court action in South Dakota - the only other talc case to go to trial - found in 2013 that J&J had been negligent but declined to award damages to plaintiff Deane Berg.

Like Fox, Berg alleged her ovarian cancer was caused by her decades-long use of J&J's talc-powder products for feminine hygiene, and jurors in both cases heard testimony about studies linking talc to cancer risks.

But, unlike Fox, who passed away several months before the trial began, Berg was in remission at the time of the trial, according to court documents.   Continued...

 
A bottle of Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder is seen in a photo illustration taken in New York, February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/Illustration