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Woman comes forward, says she got cancer from Johnson & Johnson product

By Sarah May on
 April 11, 2023

Consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has been embroiled in litigation over claims that its talc-based baby products contained cancer-causing asbestos and caused thousands to suffer illness and death, and one such plaintiff recently recounted her difficult personal journey with the disease to the Daily Mail.

Lora Stahl of Nebraska is among the thousands of individuals who have sought damages from J&J over an ovarian cancer diagnosis she believes stemmed from her use of the company's powders, and she explains to the outlet the life-altering nature of the harm she sustained.

Devastating diagnosis

Stahl, now 56, recounts how she received her terrifying diagnosis of stage 2 ovarian cancer when she was 35 years old and already mother to three young girls.

It was at that time that doctors informed her that she needed her uterus, ovaries, and a portion of her cervix removed in order to thwart further spread of the disease.

“I was still in my childbearing years; my husband and I were still young. I was lying there, and it just hit me, 'Oh, my gosh, I can't have kids anymore. We're done having a family, we don't have a choice. It's not my choice anymore,'” Stahl recalled.

That was not the only catastrophic aspect of the cancer diagnosis, in that the illness rendered Stahl unable to continue working, and when her husband unexpectedly lost his job as well as his health care coverage, the medical bills plunged the family into financial ruin.

Talc-based powder blamed

Previously unaware of any potential dangers associated with the use of baby powder products, Stahl says that roughly seven years ago, she started reading about other cancer patients who were alleging that Johnson & Johnson powders were responsible for their own gynecological cancers.

At that point, she decided to contact an attorney to explore the possibility of pursuing her own claim, based on the fact that she had used talc-based products since, she estimated, the age of 12, and that a growing body of research pointed to a link between such conduct and precisely the sort of cancer she battled.

Though she is now considered to be cancer-free, Stahl continues to struggle with osteoporosis caused by the early menopause brought on by the hysterectomy she was forced to undergo in her thirties, and she wants to see the corporate entity she sees as responsible for those hardships held accountable.

“We just lost everything. And I'm so glad I'm here, but I'm so pissed that I had to go through that. Just to tell you. It makes me so angry,” Stahl said.

J&J offers $9 billion for talc claims

With talc litigation having dragged on for years, J&J has had little choice but to explore settlement strategies with the tens of thousands of claimants, and as CBS News reports, the company has just declared its plan to offer roughly $9 billion to resolve outstanding litigation.

Notably, that proposal comes in nearly $7 billion higher than a previous settlement offer made back in 2021, when the company unsuccessfully sought to use bankruptcy protection for one of its subsidiaries as a way to shift its talc liability in a financially advantageous manner, something the company is now attempting to do once again, as Reuters noted.

In response to the higher dollar figure offered, a group of plaintiffs' lawyers issued a statement saying, “the newly announced settlement marks a significant victory for the tens of thousands of woman suffering from gynecological cancers caused by J&J's talc-based products. Under the terms of the agreement, all talc claimants will be able to have their claims evaluated and assessed within one year of plan confirmation, ensuring a swift and efficient resolution for victims of the company's misconduct.”

J&J, for its part, has long denied allegations of wrongdoing, and its worldwide vice president of litigation said with regard to the settlement offer, “The company continues to believe that these claims are specious and lack scientific merit. However, as the bankruptcy court recognized, resolving these cases in the tort system would take decades and impose significant costs...with most claimants never receiving any compensation.”

Risks allegedly known

Despite J&J's decades of disputing claims that its executives were aware of the dangers talc-based powders posed to consumers, evidence unearthed during years of litigation revealed that multiple labs tasked with testing the company's talc sources over a lengthy span of years had indeed found them to contain carcinogenic asbestos, information the company allegedly downplayed or concealed, as the Mail noted.

Stahl's anger over the possible scope of misrepresentation and deception on the part of the personal care behemoth has not abated. “[Johnson & Johnson's] name means nothing to me know. I am to the point where they owe it to the thousands of people that have suffered and either are living or passed away, their families that have suffered,” she said.

Counting her blessings, Stahl added, “I'm so glad that my kids get to still see me every day, and that I'm married to my husband 32 years now. But there was a time when I didn't think that was going to happen. I thought I was going to leave my husband with three little girls to have to weather the world.”

Though J&J is clearly eager to achieve global settlement of as many outstanding talc claims as possible, whether its proposed plan of settlement will ultimately find acceptance in the courts and with the lion's share of plaintiffs' lawyers who have spent years on these cases, only time will tell.