A jury in Missouri has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million in damages to the family of a woman whose death from ovarian cancer was linked to her use of the company’s talc-based Baby Powder and Shower to Shower for several decades. In a verdict, which came in the night of February 22, 2016, jurors awarded $10 million in actual damages to the family of Jacqueline Fox and $62 million in punitive damages. This verdict is the first by a U.S. jury to award damages over the claims.
Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson faces hundreds of lawsuits, which claim that the company failed to warn consumers that its talc-based products, when used by women to deodorize the genital area, could cause ovarian cancer. However, the lawsuits allege that the company continued to market certain talcum powder brands as feminine hygiene products in spite of knowing the risks posed to women.
Failure to Warn of Risks
Fox, an Alabama resident, said she used Baby Powder and Shower to Shower for feminine hygiene for more than 35 years before being diagnosed three years ago with ovarian cancer. She was 62 when she died in October. Jurors in Missouri found Johnson & Johnson liable for fraud, negligence and conspiracy.
Fox’s attorneys established during the trial that the company knew as far back in the 1980s about the link between talc and ovarian cancer. But they not only failed to warn consumers, but also continued to market and sell these products, essentially lying to consumers.
Holding Corporations Accountable
Punitive damages are awarded in cases where a corporation has committed an egregious act that deserves to be made an example of, in order to deter others from going the same route. As product defect lawyers who represent victims of dangerous and defective products, we are pleased that the jury came out with such a powerful verdict in favor of the plaintiffs in this case – Fox’s family.
A corporation that put profits over the safety and well-being of consumers got hit where it mattered the most. It remains to be seen if J&J would appeal this verdict (they most likely will) or if the award is reduced (it likely will be). But the jury in Missouri must be commended for making a strong statement against corporate greed and handing down a just verdict for the grieving family.