Talc Cancer Lawsuit Evidence Faces New Scrutiny

talcum powder cancer lawsuits

J&J Gets Chance to Challenge Science Linking Talcum Powder to Cancer Risk

More than 53,000 lawsuits accusing Johnson & Johnson of selling talcum powder that can cause cancer risk disruption after a New Jersey judge ruled the company can challenge evidence supporting the link. 

U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp said in his ruling that recent changes in the law, which increases courts’ roles in vetting expert testimony, as well as new scientific evidence, requires the evidence behind the lawsuits to be reviewed, Reuters reported

J&J Worldwide Vice President of Litigation Erik Haas told Reuters the company intends to "shine a light on some of the made-for-court junk science.” In the statement he added: "The passage of time has only solidified the decades of medicine and science that support Johnson & Johnson's position in these cases.”

A scandal that blew up

For a number of years J&J has been under the spotlight for its baby powder and other talc products possibly containing asbestos and causing a cancer known as mesothelioma. Talc and cancer-causing asbestos are both collected from the ground and asbestos has been found contaminating talc collections. 

In 2019, J&J issued a major product recall after traces of asbestos were found in their talcum powder products. The company has insisted its products are now safe, but are shifting gears to cornstarch-based formulas in North America

The lawsuits that followed

Since the recall, more than 53,000 lawsuits have been filed against J&J. Many have been consolidated into a multi-district litigation under Judge Shipp, and others have been consolidated elsewhere. 

The lawsuits were on hold from 2021 to 2023 while J&J tried to resolve litigation through bankruptcy, but after being denied that option, trials in the cases have resumed. This year the company agreed to pay $75 million to settle a Mississippi lawsuit and $700 million to settle talc consumer protection claims in 42 states. 

If you’ve been a J&J customer or used any talc based products, check out our page on the ongoing legal action to see if you could get compensation.

Updated laws for the courts

In many lawsuits, Federal judges are tasked with going over the evidence and arguments to decide what expert testimony is allowed to be presented in trials to make the case at hand. In 2020, a judge on the case ruled expert testimony could be presented by J&J consumers that showed the links between talc and cancer. J&J has long called for that testimony to be scrapped.  

With a December change in the law, which increases the court's role in vetting experts and their information before they testify in front of a jury, the evidence in the J&J lawsuits will be reviewed.  While J&J argues the change will help get rid of flawed evidence, lawyers for the plaintiffs say the evidence is strong enough to meet the standard.

What happens next?

Shipp has given J&J until July 23 to update its arguments about the scientific evidence in the case. Lead lawyers for plaintiffs in the federal litigation Leigh O'Dell and Michelle Parfitt told Reuters the scientific evidence that J&J products caused cancer is "stronger than ever."

"The truth of J&J’s deceptive conduct to hide the presence of carcinogens in talcum powder and mislead the medical and scientific communities has only become clearer over time," O'Dell and Parfitt said in a statement.

Once J&J has updated its arguments, it will be up to Judge Shipp to decide whether he will allow the expert testimony to be presented in the lawsuits going forward — a major factor in plaintiffs cases.



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