Named as a defendant in some of the more than 70 cases that are consolidated in the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) alleging a link between talc use for feminine hygiene and ovarian cancer is a non-profit cosmetics trade association. The association is, according to plaintiffs’ attorneys leading the MDL, largely funded by industry, including Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc America, which supplies talc to J&J.
Law360 reports that the Personal Care Products Council has filed a motion to dismiss allegations against it, saying that its lobbying and public relations activities are protected by the First Amendment.
“This motion by the Council was not unexpected….” the plaintiffs Co-Lead Counsels, P. Leigh O’Dell of Beasley Allen Crow Methvin Portis & Miles PC, and Michelle A. Parfitt of Ashcraft & Gerel LLP, told Law360.
“The Council’s broadly defined mission is to influence public opinion on a national scale, and promote the purported safety of talc to both consumers and regulatory authorities, despite the ample scientific evidence linking the use of talc to ovarian cancer,” the attorneys said in their statement to Law360.
Johnson and Johnson was found liable for three women’s ovarian cancer last year in litigation that alleges the company’s talc-containing products contributed to the development of the women’s cancer. Jurors were shown decades of published research linking talc to ovarian cancer and evidence that Johnson and Johnson was aware of these studies and that the company, instead of warning consumers, chose instead to increase marketing to minority groups as well as enlist its own scientists and lobbyists.
Internal documents from J&J showed that the company saw cancer linkage as negative publicity that could be turned around with the right PR.
In the most recent of the three trials, Imerys Talc America, Johnson and Johnson’s talc provider, was also found liable. Bloomberg Businessweek reported that during the trial plaintiffs’ attorneys accused J&J and Imerys, then Luzenac, of in 2000 influencing the National Toxicology Program, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to defer listing talc when used perineally as a possible human carcinogen even though they had already voted 13-2 to list talc.
Trial documents quoted a Luzenac exec as saying, “We, the talc industry, dodged a bullet in December, based entirely over the confusion of the definition issue.” According to the evidence presented in court, the executive then later said “Time to come up with more confusion!” in reference to an upcoming NTP review.