Wise County woman awarded $110M in talcum powder cancer case

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis Circuit Court jury has returned a $110.5 million verdict for a Virginia woman in a lawsuit claiming Johnson & Johnson’s products caused her ovarian cancer.

Lois Slemp, 62, of Wise, Va., claimed her use of the company’s Shower to Shower and baby powder products over four decades as well as asbestos particles found inside her caused her cancer.

Slemp, a mother of two grown sons, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012. The cancer has since spread to her liver.

The verdict, returned Thursday, included $5.4 million in actual damages and $105 million in punitive damages, said Jim Onder, an attorney for the plaintiff.

In a statement after the verdict, Johnson & Johnson said: “We deeply sympathize with the women and families impacted by ovarian cancer. We will begin the appeals process following today’s verdict and believe a jury decision in our favor in St. Louis in March and the dismissal of two cases in New Jersey in September 2016 by a state court judge who ruled that plaintiffs’ scientific experts could not adequately support their theories that talcum powder causes ovarian cancer further highlight the lack of credible scientific evidence behind plaintiffs’ allegations.

“We are preparing for additional trials this year and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder.”

St. Louis jury verdicts in three cases totaled $197 million against the company last year.

Last month, a St. Louis jury found in favor of the company. About 2,000 state and federal lawsuits are pending.

The trial began the first week of April; jury deliberations began Wednesday afternoon.

St. Louis juries in the earlier cases found that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn the public of studies linking its talc-containing products such as Shower to Shower and Johnson’s Baby Powder to ovarian cancer.

Talcum powder products contain the mineral talc that can absorb moisture and prevent chafing and rash.

It is used in eye shadow, blush and some chewing gums as well as baby powder. Some talc naturally contains asbestos, which is known to cause lung cancer. Asbestos has been removed from household talcum products since the 1970s.

Defendants in the suit included Johnson & Johnson, its subsidiary J&J Consumer Companies and Imerys Talc America.

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