February 27, 2016
A jury in St. Louis recently awarded a woman 72 Million in damages due to a claim that extended use of baby powder and other feminine hygiene products produced by Johnson & Johnson contributed to the ovarian cancer that eventually killed her.
Two and a half years after being diagnosed, 62 year old Birmingham, AL resident Jacqueline Fox succumbed to the disease. The suit claimed that prolonged use of Johnson & Johnson products containing the mineral "talc" such as Baby Powder and Shower to Shower feminine hygiene powder contributed to the inflammation of Fox's ovaries and, in turn, to the development of ovarian cancer. The American Cancer Society has warned of the potential of ovarian cancer should the mineral, made up mostly of silicon, magnesium and oxygen be applied in the genital area.
"It has been suggested that talcum powder might cause cancer in the ovaries if the powder particles (applied to the genital area or on sanitary napkins, diaphragms, or condoms) were to travel through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to the ovary… For any individual woman, if there is an increased risk, the overall increase is likely to very be small. Still, talc is widely used in many products, so it is important to determine if the increased risk is real. Research in this area continues."
Further, the American Cancer Society estimates that in 2016 about 22,280 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer and 14,240 will die from the disease – the fifth most deadly form of cancer among women.
Johnson & Johnson has been a trusted name in health care products for over a century, however internal memos presented during the case show that the New Jersey-based health care giant knowingly covered up the risks associated with talc-based products since 1970. "They could have at least put a warning label on the box but they didn't. They did nothing." one juror said after the case. Jim Onder, one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiff went further by indicating that internal memos by the company show that Johnson & Johnson spent 30 years preparing for litigation over the risks involved with talc-based products and knowingly decided against a safer alternative in corn starch.
Of the $72 million verdict $10 million was awarded in actual damages and $62 million in punitive damages. Fox's lawyers indicate that about half of the punitive damages will go toward the Missouri Crime Victim Compensation Fund.