A woman who died from ovarian cancer that she claimed was caused by using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder has been awarded $72 million by a Missouri jury.
The woman’s attorneys produced evidence that included a 1997 J&J memo from the company’s medical consultant suggesting that “anybody who denies [the] risks” between “hygenic” talc use and ovarian cancer would be publicly perceived in the same light as those who denied a link between smoking cigarettes and cancer: “Denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”
Talc is a natural mineral that comprises magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen and which is widely used in cosmetics and personal care products, such as talcum powder, to absorb moisture, prevent caking and improve the product’s feel.
Her son took over as plaintiff following his mother’s October 2015 death at 62, more than two years after her diagnosis.
Marvin Salter of Jacksonville, Florida, said his late mother, who was a foster parent, used the brand of talcum powder as a bathroom staple for decades. “It just became second nature, like brushing your teeth,” he said. “It’s a household name.”
An attorney for Fox said the jury verdict Monday night, which came after nearly five hours of deliberations at the conclusion of a three-week trial, was the first such case among more than 1,000 nationally to result in a jury’s monetary award.
The jury said that Fox was entitled to $10m in actual damages and $62m in punitive damages. Attorney James Onder said he “absolutely” expects Johnson & Johnson – the world’s biggest maker of healthcare products – to appeal the verdict.
The New Jersey-based company previously has been targeted by health and consumer groups over possibly harmful ingredients in items including in its Johnson’s No More Tears baby shampoo.
In May 2009, a coalition of groups called the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics began pushing Johnson & Johnson to eliminate questionable ingredients from its baby and adult personal care products. After three years of petitions, negative publicity and a boycott threat, the company agreed in 2012 to eliminate the ingredients 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, both considered probable human carcinogens, from all products by 2015.
The possibility of thousands more suits against Johnson & Johnson mean it is a time of crisis for the company that has for so long been a ‘trusted name’ in babycare products.