J&J not liable for Illinois woman’s death in talc case

Illinois state court jury sided with the consumer and health goods giant despite the company being found in contempt of court

Credit: Mattman723 via Wikimedia Commons

The story of Johnson & Johnson’s legal fight over talc cancer claims has taken yet another twist.

On Friday, an Illinois jury refused to hold J&J liable for a woman’s death from ovarian cancer, which the woman’s family blamed on prolonged use of the beauty and health care giant’s talcum powders.

Relatives of Elizabeth Driscoll – who died of ovarian cancer in 2016 at age 69 – had sought up to US$50m in damages based on accusations that J&J knew its baby powder and Shower to Shower products were dangerous.

The lawsuit was filed in 2018 by Driscoll’s niece Colleen Cadagin, a representative of her estate.

Following a three-week trial, jurors in St. Clair County, Illinois ruled in favour of J&J, this was despite trial judge Christopher Kolker issuing contempt-of-court orders on Monday 26 July against the company and Dr Susan Nicholson, J&J’s Vice President of Women’s Health, for her failure to appear in court.

Nicholson’s previous testimony was struck and she was stated on record as not being a credible witness.

J&J said the jury's decision reflected "careful consideration of the science and facts presented".

But despite this victory, J&J’s legal battles are far from over; last Tuesday, it was announced that the US’ National Council of Negro Women would be suing the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company for marketing its talc products to black women, despite knowing that they could cause ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, according to the lawsuit.

According to Reuters, J&J is currently facing around 34,600 lawsuits over its talc products.

And the company is reportedly tooling up to protect its interests. Last month, J&J was said to be considering moving talc liabilities into a newly created business that would then seek bankruptcy protection.