(LAW360, August 3, 2017) A recently retired Harvard pathologist testifying on behalf of a woman alleging Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products gave her terminal ovarian cancer told a California jury Wednesday that he found numerous talc particles in the woman’s surgically removed ovarian tissue.
During the second week of the trial in Los Angeles, plaintiff Eva Echeverria called to the stand pathology expert John Godleski, who retired earlier this year from his professorship in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, to testify about his examination of tissue samples taken from Echeverria’s reproductive organs, which were removed as a surgical treatment of her cancer.
Godleski told the jury that he looked at dozens of tissue samples, carefully handled to ensure they had no external contamination, and identified 11 talc particles in those samples. Godleski noted that even these samples represent a very small portion of the total amount of tissue, and said that studies had shown that the presence of one particle of a substance in a sample could indicate hundreds of particles of that substance in the whole amount of tissue.
“In this case since we found eleven in the volume of tissue we looked at, we could apply that same kind of logic, and what we come away with is there’s a substantial burden of talc in Ms. Echeverria’s tissue,” he said.
Godleski also said that it was “very unlikely” that the talc particles had entered the tissue as the result of Echeverria consuming talc orally – rather, he said, he was convinced the particles were there as a result of her use of talcum powder on her genital area.
Echeverria filed suit with six other women in Los Angeles County Superior Court in July 2016, alleging that for years she used talcum powder mined by Imerys Talc America Inc. and sold by J&J, and that she developed ovarian cancer in 2007. Echeverria would be the first plaintiff to head to trial out of the hundreds in the complex litigation consolidating California claims against the companies.