Lois Slemp, the fifth plaintiff to go to trial in the past two years alleging Johnson and Johnson’s talc products caused her ovarian cancer, was too sick to testify in court last week. Ms. Slemp is one of thousands of women who are suing J&J and its talc supplier, Imerys Talc America, alleging the companies knew of the link between ovarian cancer and talc use for feminine hygiene but failed to warn women.
The St. Louis jury saw audio testimony from Ms. Slemp that was recorded during her deposition in July 2016. Law360 reports that she said she saw ads for Johnson and Johnson’s Shower to Shower in the 1980s suggesting “a sprinkle a day” and she began daily use of both Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower that would continue for four decades until she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
“They were well publicized and seemed like a good product at the time,” she said of the products. “I liked the way they smelled and the way they made me feel.”
She discussed her family history of cancer and her own medical issues and the fact that in all her years of buying Johnson and Johnson’s products she never saw warnings on the packages not to use the talc on her genitals, nor warnings about ovarian cancer. She testified had the products included warnings about the risks she wouldn’t have used them.
“I would not want cancer,” she said. “I wouldn’t have used it.”
She described the pain and suffering the ovarian tumors have caused her since she was diagnosed in 2012, exacerbating other health issues and stealing away time she could have spent enjoying with her family.
“‘Because I suffered a lot, I did. I suffered. My family suffered,” she said. “No company should ever get away with what I went through. And it was death.’”
The jury will consider her testimony along with the scientific evidence presented by expert witnesses earlier during the trial to determine if they believe Johnson and Johnson’s products were responsible for the development of her ovarian cancer and whether or not they will find the companies guilty of negligence for failing to warn consumers of the products’ ovarian cancer risk.
Last year three juries held Johnson and Johnson responsible in similar cases. In February, the family of plaintiff Jacqueline Fox, who died of ovarian cancer just before her case went to trial, was awarded $72 million in damages. In May plaintiff Gloria Ristesund was awarded $55 million, and in October plaintiff Deborah Giannecchini was awarded $70 million. In her case, Imerys was found liable as well as Johnson and Johnson. In March of this year a jury did not determine that plaintiff Nora Daniels’ ovarian cancer was caused by her talcum powder use.
The results of Ms. Slemp’s trial are much anticipated, as more than 1,000 more claims are pending in Missouri by other women who are suffering from ovarian cancer they claim is related to talc use, and there are more cases filed across the country. There are trials set in St. Louis for both June and July and a first California trial set for July.
The St. Louis Record reported that during opening arguments Ms. Slemp’s attorney Allen Smith “urged jurors to punish the defendants’ conduct to prevent deadly health risks in the future – by hitting the companies with damages awards that match the suffering that Slemp and other women have sustained.”
St. Louis Record