About Talcum Powder Lawsuits
Dealing with a cancer or mesothelioma diagnosis can take its toll on your life emotionally, physically, and financially. If you suspect that exposure to a hazardous talcum powder product was the cause of your health condition, you may have a list of questions running through your mind. How long could it take to seek compensation, and what are my chances of winning? How do I prove my case? Should I work with a lawyer?
One big question that may escape many potential plaintiffs’ minds is how long you have to file a lawsuit. It is important that you know that many laws restrict your deadline to file a lawsuit, depending on the state you live in. A talcum powder lawsuit lawyer can help you sort through these and all legal questions as you explore your options for holding Johnson & Johnson (J&J) accountable for your damages.
Background on the Talcum Powder Lawsuits
In late 2019, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) discovered asbestos contamination in a lot of Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder products. The manufacturer then voluntarily recalled affected products. As the FDA notes, mining for talcum powder is vulnerable to asbestos contamination if certain monitoring procedures are not carefully followed during extraction.
This recall opened up greater potential for plaintiffs to begin seeking damages from J&J. Now, thousands of lawsuits have been filed. Plaintiffs allege that J&J’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products caused cancer, and the company knew of the risks of ovarian and other cancers—but failed to warn consumers.
Instead, Johnson & Johnson marketed its talc products as safe for infant hygiene and feminine hygiene use, which many women applied to the genital area.
Johnson & Johnson Had Reports of Contamination for Decades
Johnson & Johnson was aware its talc powder was contaminated with asbestos for decades.
According to a report from Reuters, the company’s internal communications reveal that analyses of J&J’s baby powder produced alarming lab results as early as 1957. At this time, a form of asbestos fibers was discovered in the company’s talc source in Italy.
When the FDA proposed to regulate acceptable limits of asbestos in cosmetic products in the 1970s, Johnson & Johnson knew it was under threat. The company developed a strategic approach to ensure its baby powder would survive FDA scrutiny, reporting only a limited window of test results and failing to disclose known instances of contamination.
The First Talc Lawsuit Was Filed Against J&J in 1999
The first lawsuit claiming that talcum powder caused a victim’s cancer was filed in 1999 by Darlene Coker (Reuters). At that time, Coker was surprised to learn she had mesothelioma, a form of cancer affecting the tissue around the lungs. Coker believed mesothelioma was most common among men exposed to asbestos through shipbuilding and other trades.
Her lawyer, however, made the connection between the talc powder she had used throughout her life and her terminal cancer.
While Coker’s case at that time was deemed to lack sufficient evidence, forcing her to drop the case, plaintiffs claiming that talc caused their cancer now have more documentation to bring against Johnson & Johnson. The company currently faces liability for nearly 40,000 lawsuits.
Plaintiffs Seek Damages for Losses Related to Cancer Diagnoses
For those who can show they used Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder or Shower to Shower products and suffered cancer or other health consequences as a result, they could seek various damages.
Some forms of recoverable compensation could include:
Medical Bills for Diagnosis, Treatment, and Recovery
Victims may be facing mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, or other forms of cancer as a result of using talcum powder for personal hygiene. The medical costs of diagnosing, treating, and recovering from cancer can be staggering. Depending on where you are in your health plan and what type of cancer you’re facing, you could be dealing with past, present, and future medical expenses.
You could recover compensation for the following costs:
- Diagnostic testing, such as biopsy, ultrasound tests, or blood tests
- Surgery to remove organs or cancerous growth
- Chemo or hormone therapy
- Palliative care
- Pain medications
If you lost a loved one to their fight against cancer, you could also recover compensation for their medical costs before their death.
Financial Losses Beyond Medical Bills
Many types of losses are associated with a cancer diagnosis. If you are physically or mentally unable to work due to your cancer symptoms, treatment symptoms, or recovery time from surgery, you could recover these losses.
A talcum powder lawsuit lawyer can help you calculate what you could seek for:
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Lost benefits
- Missed opportunities for promotions
If you lost a loved one, you could seek recovery for the income they will no longer be able to provide for you or your family.
Other Personal Costs
Living with cancer and dealing with treatments can be overwhelming. You could recover compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Reduced ability to enjoy life
- Wrongful death damages, such as for loss of companionship
What Is the Statute of Limitations on the Talcum Powder Lawsuit?
Talcum powder lawsuits fall under the umbrella of product liability cases. Product liability cases involve situations where a consumer item was used as intended yet caused harm to the user due to any number of errors for which the manufacturer could be responsible.
Each state dictates a statute of limitations for product liability lawsuits. In other words, you have a limited time to bring a lawsuit based on state law. Depending on the state, these time frames can range from one year (such as in Kentucky) to 10 or even 11 years (as in North Dakota).
The ‘Discovery Rule’
Another important element of statute of limitations law relates to when that clock starts ticking. In some states, the time limit clock begins ticking when the injured party discovers they are injured. This is known as the discovery rule. In other states, the clock begins when that party was initially injured.
Here’s an example situation to illustrate the discovery rule. Let’s say you bought Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder in 2002 and used it every year until it was taken off the U.S. market in 2020. In December 2020, you then went to the doctor for concerning symptoms and discovered that you have cancer. In August 2021, you learned about the J&J lawsuits and sought legal help.
In this case, the injury was discovered in December 2020, which means the statute of limitations began then—on the day you received a cancer diagnosis. In a state where the statute of limitations states you have one year from the day of discovery to file a lawsuit, you would likely be within your right to sue, as less than one year had elapsed since the diagnosis and when you began lawsuit proceedings.
A plaintiff may find themselves in a state where the statute of limitations clock begins ticking from the date of the initial injury. This scenario may sound discouraging, as you may think that you cannot sue if it took 10 or 20 years to discover your symptoms. However, there could be exceptions for people with diseases that have long latency.
Long latency refers to illnesses that take many years to develop, such as mesothelioma. So, if your doctor can show that your cancer was likely developing for many years, yet you only recently began experiencing symptoms, you could be granted what is known as a tolling exception.
Tolling exceptions allow injury victims to receive more time to file a lawsuit than is stated in statute of limitations law. Thus, the courts may grant you additional time to file a suit if you have mesothelioma as a result of a J&J product—regardless of when the disease may have initially developed.
Years of Exposure
Research shows that exposure to talc powder contaminated with asbestos can cause ovarian cancer as well as mesothelioma, per the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
With mesothelioma, asbestos fibers can be inhaled into the lungs, where irritation over the course of years can eventually cause cancer. According to Mayo Clinic, it can take anywhere from 20 to 60 years after asbestos exposure for mesothelioma to become malignant.
So, years of exposure to asbestos can lead to these serious health conditions—which can make it challenging for victims to trace their mesothelioma or ovarian cancer to talcum powder exposure. However, a doctor or other expert witness could examine your medical records and provide testimony demonstrating the connection between your use of a J&J talc product and cancer.
Statutes of Repose
In some states, there could be another deadline to know about if you were exposed to a faulty or dangerous product. Statutes of repose give a secondary, maximum deadline to file a lawsuit for products that are no longer on the market. Typically, the clock on the statute of repose starts ticking when the product is last sold to consumers.
So, let’s say that you live in a state where there is a statute of repose of 10 years. If the dangerous product was discontinued in 2000 but you only now are starting to face symptoms more than 20 years later, you could be barred from filing a lawsuit—regardless of how many years it’s been since you discovered your injuries.
Determining Which State’s Rules Apply to Your Case
One of the best ways to determine which state’s rules apply to your case is to get help from a law firm. As you can see from this brief outline of the statute of limitations and statutes of repose laws, these rules can be complex—and they vary across the country.
When you contact a lawyer’s team, they can explain all laws that could be relevant to your case, including those that permit you to file a suit or limit your ability to do so.
Other Important Legal Steps to Take for a Baby Powder Lawsuit
You may want a lawyer’s help. If you used a Johnson & Johnson talcum powder and believe you are facing cancer or another health condition as a result, you could seek compensation through a lawsuit—but there are many important steps to take to successfully secure damages.
An injury attorney can help you with all necessary legal tasks, including:
- Gathering evidence to demonstrate your health condition
- Using expert witness testimony to prove a link between your harm and a J&J product
- Submitting necessary court paperwork
- Litigating for you at trial
- Representing your best interests during the settlement process
- Communicating with all third parties in the suit for you
- Advising you on relevant laws and all your legal options
When you have an attorney representing your best interests, you can know that you are seeking the best possible compensation available in your unique situation. Additionally, you can hand off the legal burden of a challenging case.
After all, Johnson & Johnson’s legal team will likely come well prepared to challenge liability claims. Having strong legal resources on your side can help you go up against a major corporate defendant.
The Status of Talcum Powder Lawsuits
So far, Johnson & Johnson has made settlement agreements for some of the recent lawsuits brought for talc powder cases.
- In 2016, the company paid its first damages for talc lawsuits. A $72 million verdict was granted in the case of Jacqueline Fox, a North Carolinian whose family received wrongful death damages after she passed away from ovarian cancer. She used talc powder for 35 years before her passing. (The Washington Post)
- In 2016, J&J faced a $55 million verdict for Gloria Ristesund, who claimed her ovarian cancer resulted from baby powder use. (Reuters)
- In 2020, the company settled 22 talc cases for $2.1 billion through a Missouri appeals court. (CNN)
- In 2021, the company settled 1,000 talc cases for $100 million. (Forbes)
As of March 2022, litigation in thousands of baby powder lawsuits is currently paused. This is because Johnson & Johnson transferred liability for its talc lawsuits to a subsidiary company, which then filed for bankruptcy. This complex series of maneuvers took place over the course of 2021, as reported by Reuters.
Essentially, J&J worked to avoid paying out talc powder claims through the jury trial system. Now, plaintiffs in the case await further direction from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Kaplan, who is managing the Chapter 11 proceedings. (Reuters)
For now, Judge Kaplan has upheld the Chapter 11 filing as legitimate, in spite of plaintiffs’ objections that Johnson & Johnson is far from bankrupt and simply abused the bankruptcy system to protect its own liability exposure.
You Can Still File a Lawsuit Against Johnson & Johnson
Just because Johnson & Johnson filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy does not mean potential plaintiffs are out of luck for their cancer claims.
While J&J is facing protections from litigation and may not have to proceed through a jury trial to resolve the nearly 40,000 pending lawsuits—in addition to any other future lawsuits filed—the settlement process could proceed through bankruptcy court proceedings.
This means plaintiffs could still make a recovery for their losses related to talc powder products. You may be able to join the existing multidistrict litigation action (United States District Court of New Jersey) or a class action lawsuit. To understand your legal options and what comes next for your case, you could get a free case review from an injury lawyer’s team. Often, injury lawyers provide free consultations and work based on contingency, so you may owe nothing upfront to get started with a case.
Call a Lawyer’s Team Now to Start Your Talcum Powder Claim
To learn more about whether you could have a case against Johnson & Johnson, fill out our online contact form to connect with a lawyer in our network. You can get started on your financial recovery today.