Among the thousands of lawsuits against baby powder manufacturer Johnson & Johnson (J&J) are 17 newly filed lawsuits in New Mexico. These lawsuits join the baby powder litigation at a pivotal time – as the fourth baby powder trial is underway in a St. Louis court.

The women all used J&J’s baby powder products around their groin for feminine hygiene purposes until being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The women range in age from late 20s to mid 60s and claim that if they had been properly warned about the cancer risk, they would not have used the product.

The outcome of the fourth talcum powder trial will have a profound impact on the New Mexico lawsuits, as well as the thousands of other talc lawsuits filed across the country. The company lost three previous baby powder trials, and a fourth loss could encourage J&J to settle remaining cases.

Jurors in the current baby powder trial will hear evidence from more than 20 epidemiological studies that the talc used in baby powder can cause ovarian cancer. The first link between talc and ovarian cancer was uncovered in 1971 when doctors found talc particles deeply embedded in ovarian tumors. Jurors listened to the expert testimony of David C. Steinberg who testified J&J should have warned consumers about the link beginning in 1982.

Concerned about the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, J&J hired an independent consultant in the 1990s to evaluate the potential connection. Although the consultant advised the company to stop defending the safety of talc, the J&J ignored his advice and continued to promote its baby powder products. A marketing report from 1992 shows the company knew about growing consumer mistrust of talc, but devised marketing strategies to overcome objections.

The fourth baby powder trial will likely take a few more weeks to resolve.