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J&J Facing Wrongful Death & Asbestos Claims in Latest Talc Cancer Trials

Shawn Blaes

Mesh Medical Device News Desk, October 6, 2017 ~ The trial of a St. Louis area women, who died from ovarian cancer allegedly caused after decades of using Johnson & Johnson talcum powder, is set to begin this month.

This will be the sixth talcum-cancer trial in St. Louis against defendant J&J, maker of Shower to Shower and Baby Powder.

SHAWN BLAES CASE FROM ST. LOUIS

The family of Shawn Blaes, from Webster Groves, a neighborhood in St. Louis County, Missouri, is the sole plaintiff in an October 16, 2017 product liability trial against Johnson & Johnson.

Blaes, 50, died of ovarian cancer January 12, 2011 after decades of using J&J’s talcum powder for genital hygiene. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in October 2008.

She had been married for 25 years to husband Mike, was the mother of twin boys. She loved her golden retrievers and figure skating.

Blaes was one of the three plaintiffs whose claims ended in a mistrial in St. Louis Circuit Court in June.  Judge Rex Burlison declared the mistrial in the early stages of the June action because the U.S. Supreme Court had just issued a decision on the Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) case.

The Court  rejected a California court jurisdiction over claims by out-of-state litigants against out-of-state defendants.  Critics had called it “venue shopping” or “judge shopping” to seek the most favorable outcome.

Shawn Blaes and family, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

See Mesh News Desk story on the BMS decision here.

Blaes is from Missouri but the two other plaintiffs were non-residents from Virginia and Texas.

St. Louis has become the hub for talc-ovarian  cancer litigation.

Courtroom View Network covered the first trial.

This will be the sixth civil lawsuit in St. Louis claiming that talcum powder used in the genital area causes ovarian cancer. Four of the five previous trial awarded the injured plaintiffs more than $300 million in damages. J&J has appealed those jury verdicts.

Just last August, plaintiff Eva Echeverria was awarded $417 million after taking her ovarian cancer case against Johnson & Johnson before California jurors. Mesh News Desk story here. 

She will likely never see any of the compensation. J&J has appealed, and Echeverria has end stage ovarian cancer.

 

TINA HERFORD TRIAL IN CALIFORNIA 

Tuesday, Oct 10, 2:30 pm ~ Judge Simpson in the talcum powder mesothelioma case being heard in California, granted a mistrial after the plaintiff, on the stand Friday, mentioned the much-litigated connection between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer.

According to pre-trial motions, that mention was omitted from the case.  Not to be deterred, a new jury selection is planned for Monday, October 16, with opening arguments to begin Thursday, October 19.  Courtroom View Network will carry the proceedings. Subscription required here.     

Tina Herford claims her use of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Baby Powder and Shower to Shower  (also made by J&J) from 1956 to 1993 led to the development of mesothelioma.

This is the first case to claim that cancer was caused from breathing in talc powder contaminated with asbestos. The other plaintiffs  in both St. Louis and California, have claimed that genital use of talcum powder for feminine hygiene, caused their ovarian cancer.

Herford claims Johnson & Johnson knew about the risks associated with its talc products as did talc supplier Imerys Talc America.

Both J&J and Imerys claim their talcum powder is free from asbestos, generally litigated in insulation material cases. J&J talks about the Safety of Talc here.

One other trial has also introduced evidence of asbestos in talcum powder.  Herford is expected to last through October, at least.

Herford is represented by Chris Panatier of Dallas-based Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett PC. He represented another plaintiff in a similar case in 2015 against Colgate-Palmolive over its Cashmere Bouquet body powder.  That case resulted in a $12.4 million award.

There is other precedent for these arguments. A Los Angeles jury awarded $18 million to a man who said he developed mesothelioma after exposure to talc brought home from his father’s barber shop. That case was against American International Industries.

Industrial talc in the workplace resulted in a $2.86 million verdict to the family of a man who died of cancer.  The defendant there was American Optical Corp. Vanderbilt Co. Inc was ordered to pay $10.55 million for the wrongful death of another plaintiff in a New York case.

The Herford case will be the first time J&J has been brought into the asbestos debate.

Tina and Douglas Herford v. AT&T Corp., et al,  No. BC646315  Calis Superior Court. 

J&J website

 

THE EVIDENCE

As is often the case, these trials must show there was a viable alternative.

In the case of talc, cornstarch is an organic carbohydrate quickly broken down by the body.  In fact, the J&J website now offers three of four baby powders made from cornstarch with no talc.  There is no warning next to the products on the website.

Talc is mined around the world.

Imerys, which mines talc for J&J, assures users that there is no toxic effect , that talc dust is “inert,” and that there was no excess of lung cancer or any other type of cancer among the personnel working in plant operations in Italy, France and Austria.

Imerys adds that cosmetic-grade talc is “safe for personal use.”

Talc is also used to make cosmetics – blushers and eye shadows and for powder cosmetics and even teeth whitening and anti-dandruff shampoos and biodegradable coffee capsules.  (Want to avoid dangerous cosmetics?  See Environmental Working Group Skin Deep database on safe cosmetics).

There were, and continue to be, no warnings on the talcum powder made by J&J. Imerys shipment of talcum powder is accompanied by a Material Safety Data Sheet,  (MSDS) which did warn of the ovarian cancer hazard associated with perineal talc use.

Law firm, Beasley Allen, displays on its website, two talc products – one purchased from Dollar Tree store – Angel of Mine Baby Powder – and another from Walmart – Spring Fresh Powder.

 

Both have explicit warnings on the label!

“Frequent application of talcum powder in the female genital area may increase the risk of ovarian cancer,” and “Medical evidence suggests that women who use talcum powder as a feminine hygiene product run a greater risk of developing ovarian cancer.”

J&J still has no warning on its baby powders.


SHOULD HAVE KNOWN 

The complaint says the company should have known about the link between ovarian cancer and talcum powder in 1971 when the first study was conducted by Dr. WJ Henderson in Wales.

By 1982, the first epidemiological study was conducted by Dr. Daniel Cramer which found a 92% increased risk in ovarian cancer among women using talc for genital use. Twenty-two additional studies since then have reported an elevated risk for ovarian cancer associated with genital talc use in women, according to the plaintiffs’ complaint.

Talc was found to be a carcinogen in a 1993 study by the US National Toxicology Program, whether it was found with or without asbestos-like fibers.

Since 2006, the International Association for the Research of Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, has classified perineal use of talcum body powder as a Group 2B human carcinogen.  Among women using talc genitally, IARC found an increase in ovarian cancer risk from 30 to 60%.

More than 14,000 women die every year from ovarian cancer which is very difficult to detect and has a low survival rate. There is no known cause but the American Cancer Society says, “some cancer-causing substances may enter the body through the vagina and pass through the uterus and fallopian tubes to reach the ovaries.”

This would explain how removing the uterus in a hysterectomy or blocking the fallopian tubes such as in a tubal ligation affects the ovarian cancer risk.

There are 2,500 pending talc lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson in Missouri and another 300 cases filed in California.

A year ago, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established MDL No. 2738 in New Jersey to consolidate the growing number of talcum powder/ovarian cancer cases around the country. ###

 

LEARN MORE:

Bloomberg- Toxics Law Reporter
https://www.bna.com/johnson-johnsons-newest-n57982087958/

Imerys Talc
http://www.imerystalc.com/content/corporate/About_talc/Health_and_safety_effects/index.php?source=region;2


EuroTalc, Scientific Association of European Talc Producers

http://www.eurotalc.eu/health-and-safety


Material Data Safety Sheet

http://www.beasleyallen.com/media/2017/05/Talc-Material-Data-Safety-Sheet.pdf

 

MND, Supreme Court Decision Forces Talc Plaintiffs out of MO Court, September 20, 2017
https://www.meshmedicaldevicenewsdesk.com/supreme-court-decision-forces-talc-plaintiffs-mo-court/

 

St. Louis Record, June 22, 2017, Due to high court ruling, mistrial declared in talc case against J&J
http://stlrecord.com/stories/511130392-due-to-high-court-ruling-mistrial-declared-in-talc-case-against-johnson-johnson

 

Blaes, Fourth Amended Complaint August 14, 2017
file:///E:/AA%20SURGICAL%20MESH%20%20MDND/AATalcum%20Powder/Blaes%20%20Shawn%20%20Exhibit%20A%20-%20Fourth%20Amended%20Petition.pdf

 

Huff post on talc situation
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/larry-bodine/behind-the-55-million-ver_b_9833366.html

 

Time Magazine, April 2016, Profiting from the myths about black women’s bodies
http://time.com/4280707/black-women-beauty-myths/

 

Research George Washington University on Black Women and personal products, 2015
http://hsrc.himmelfarb.gwu.edu/sphhs_enviro_facpubs/137/

 

African-American women are four time as likely to use vaginal deodorants, Project Muse, 2011, Advertising & Society Review, Vol. 11
https://muse.jhu.edu/article/407304

 

Environmental Working Group, Skin Deep Database
http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/site/about.php#2

 

4 Comments

  1. Bejah Blue says:

    My heart goes out to all those who have been victimized and continue to be victimized by corporations like Johnson and Johnson and their products and the government that does little or nothing to stop the related abuses.

    A friend of mine recently told me that she believes I am an Empath. I did not really know what that meant so I began reading about it. Part of what I came upon was a list of medicinal substances and it occurred to me that although they all sounded very exotic and unfamiliar to me, they may be helpful for many of us and help to alleviate our suffering so I mention them here. Please carefully research these if you are not familiar with them and take every precaution that they are safe for you and are not contraindicated given other medications and substances you take. Perhaps they can help us and because the government is failing us on many fronts, even preventing access to pain medication increasingly, we must explore other options to try to help ourselves and our community. If you are familiar with any of these please comment and share your impressions and experience with us. Thanks.

    A short Bach Flower Remedies guide for the empath

    If you are feeling ungrounded

    The key is wanting to be here. Often physical exercise can help a lot, as it tends to bring you back into your body. Sometimes you can bring yourself back by sheer force of will.

    Of course, I would also recommend Bach Flower Remedies, but it greatly depends on what is causing the feeling of being ungrounded.

    Lack of self-confidence: Larch

    Known fears: Mimulus.

    Terror and panic: Rock Rose

    Escaping in your imagination or dreaminess: Clematis.

    Shock and / or trauma: Star of Bethlehem.

    Pine: Guilt
    Pine is an amazing remedy for those feelings of guilt.

    Anxiety or feeling ill at ease: Aspen.

    This is an invaluable remedy for those we are experiencing feelings of unease. You just sense something is wrong but can’t work out why. Aspen can help clarify or ease the sense that something is wrong. It also helps if you’re pick up on fears of another. It is also worth noting that you may get the same feeling when feeling guilt, in which case, Pine will help.

    Red Chestnut: Concern for another is also another major reason why we can become ungrounded or become open to others feelings and fears.

    Walnut: Especially useful when you’re trying to escape the influence of another person.

    Mustard: This is for those who are sensitive to negative energies. They will become depressed for no apparent reason. While aspen will help vague fears, mustard will help the feelings of depression.

    Gorse: Very good for when you feel things are hopeless.

    Gentian: This would be useful for when you no longer believe that things are going to work out. It’s an excellent remedy to use with Gorse.
    In general:

    Agrimony: Many try to maintain a brave face because they don’t want to bother anyone else. They may be feeling tortured by their feelings, but they won’t let on. This can be extremely harmful. Agrimony brings relief.

    Centaury: If you can’t say ‘no’ to others and feel guilt.

    Cherry Plum: If you sometimes hold it all inside, and get more and more frustrated, eventually this can cause an explosion. Cherry Plum helps diffuse this feeling.

    Hope this help people! Bejah

  2. Lordhelpus says:

    R.I.P. Miss Blaes…my deepest condolences to the family. I pray her death does NOT go unnoticed…

  3. Bejah Blue says:

    Dear people, Somewhere on the site I spoke of Pyridium and the relief it gives me from the pain of Vulvodynia, one of the things I was diagnosed with in the first six months following implant in 2010 (the other was Intersistial Cystitis). It is stated BTW that Pyridium also helps with that BTW…so the literature claims. I will continue to use it but because I recommended it to you all I want to add this information I just pulled from Drugs.com just as an FYI. I am trying to determine why it is recommended only for short term use (I used it for the first three years following implant and the implanting surgeon kept refilling my prescription for it without question). At the time I wondered why but now I know, of course. Here is the info. I want to share just as an FYI:
    For the Consumer
    Applies to phenazopyridine: oral kit, oral tablet
    Along with its needed effects, phenazopyridine (the active ingredient contained in Pyridium) may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
    Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur while taking phenazopyridine:
    Rare
    • Blue or blue-purple color of skin
    • fever and confusion
    • shortness of breath, tightness in chest, wheezing, or troubled breathing
    • skin rash
    • sudden decrease in the amount of urine
    • swelling of face, fingers, feet, and/or lower legs
    • unusual tiredness or weakness
    • weight gain
    • yellow eyes or skin
    Some side effects of phenazopyridine may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
    Less common or rare
    • Dizziness
    • headache
    • indigestion
    • itching of the skin
    • stomach cramps or pain

    So there you have it….sounds like fun, eh? I have actually had some of the side effects listed like a little weight gain, headache, some shortness of breath, etc. but geeezzzzz how do we know what is causing what side effects? It is all so confusing. Anyway, hope this is helpful. Bottom line for me: It takes away the pain so I am on board. PERIOD. Bejah

  4. Bejah Blue says:

    Shawn Blaes was and is a beautiful angel, an innocent who believed what she had a right to believe and she was betrayed in the worst way. For how long are we going to put up with this as a nation. Our country is being destroyed by these corporations. Why can we not see it. The people of earth are eight billion strong and yet we are manipulated, used and destroyed by a few. Why do we stand by and do nothing as a species.

    Bejah

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