Johnson and Johnson has been found liable in the cancer death of a Missouri woman, who died in October 2015 from ovarian cancer after using the company’s talc-based Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower feminine wash products for over three decades.
According to Reuters news service on Feb. 24, via MSN Money, jurors in the circuit court of St. Louis ruled that the multinational pharmaceutical manufacturer must award the family of Jacqueline Fox $10 million dollars for actual damages – and $62 million for punitive damages.
Johnson & Johnson also faces “several hundred lawsuits claiming that it, in an effort to boost sales, failed for decades to warn consumers that its talc-based products could cause cancer,” Reuters reports.
Fox, 62, died from cancer after using the Johnson & Johnson products for over thirty five years. Following a three-week trial, prosecutors established that the New Jersey-based company – which likely has products in almost every home in America –was “liable for fraud, negligence and conspiracy.”
Jere Beasley, a lawyer for Fox’s family, accused Johnson & Johnson of knowing “as far back as the 1980s of the risk,” but continuing lie to both the public and regulatory agencies.
Carol Goodrich, a Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman, said the safety of cosmetic talc has been supported by decades of research, and indicated the company will appeal the verdict.
“We have no higher responsibility than the health and safety of consumers, and we are disappointed with the outcome of the trial,” Goodrich said. “We sympathize with the plaintiff’s family but firmly believe the safety of cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence.”
This is not the first time legal precedent has been set that establishes a potential link with the products and cancer. Adds Reuters: “In October 2013, a federal jury in Sioux Falls, South Dakota found that plaintiff Deane Berg’s use of Johnson & Johnson’s body powder products was a factor in her developing ovarian cancer. Nevertheless, it awarded no damages, court records show.”
One of the jurors, Jerome Kendrick, 50, spoke about the fact they ruled in favor of the Fox family. Kendrick said internal company emails, presented as evidence, “pretty much sealed the opinion.”
“They tried to cover it up and influence the boards that regulate cosmetics,” Kendrick said.
According to News One, black and Hispanic women carry a greater risk of ovarian cancer. Jacqueline Fox was an African American. However, the company is still pursuing minorities as customers. “According to one internal memo, J&J execs discussed the decline in sales because Black and Hispanic women were becoming more aware of the health risks,” the site reports.
Fox’s son Marvin Salter, 46, said he was shocked at the verdict. “I was speechless when we heard the initial number,” he said. “To think, how groundbreaking this could be for so many other people.”
Other Johnson & Johnson cancer cases will go to state court April, and to federal court in July.