A Missouri jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $55 million to a woman who sued the company saying using its talc-based powder products for feminine hygiene caused her to develop ovarian cancer. According to a Reuters news report, the verdict was the second straight trial loss for the corporation, which is facing 1,200 lawsuits from women alleging that it did not adequately warn them about the danger of ovarian cancer posed by its talc-based powder products.
Compensatory and Punitive Damages
The verdict came Monday after a three-week trial. Jurors deliberated for about a day before returning the verdict for the plaintiff, Gloria Ristesund, awarding $5 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages. Johnson & Johnson has already said it will appeal the verdict. A company spokeswoman said the verdict contradicted “30 years of research supporting the safety of the cosmetic talc.” Like many other women who have filed lawsuits against J & J, Ristesund said she used popular brands of their talc-based Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower powder on her genitals for decades. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had to undergo a hysterectomy and other related surgeries.
Aggressive Marketing and Failure to Warn
Johnson & Johnson has known about decades-old research that has linked their talc-based products to ovarian cancer, but has failed to warn consumers about the fact that these products could put them at risk for ovarian cancer, said Brian Chase, senior partner at Newport Beach product defect law firm Bisnar Chase. This verdict follows a $72 million jury award from the same court in February to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer, also after about 40 years of using the talc powder for feminine hygiene.
“J & J not only failed to warn their consumers in spite of knowing the risks but also went about aggressively marketing these talcum powder products to women encouraging them to use these powders for feminine hygiene,” Chase said. “It’s evident from the facts that have emerged that Johnson & Johnson deliberately misled its consumers in spite of research that surfaced as early as in the 1980s highlighting the connection between talc and ovarian cancer.”
Corporations that put profits ahead of the safety and well-being of consumers must be held accountable, Chase said.
“This is not about research or statistics,” he said. “This is about real people who have been affected. It’s about families that have been affected. This is about justice for those who have been blindsided. This is the second time, and as many trials, Johnson & Johnson got hit for significant punitive damages. Clearly the jurors in this country are sending a message to Johnson & Johnson that you cannot consciously disregard the rights and safety of consumers in order to make more profits.”