More than 1,200 pending lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson involving the company’s iconic baby powder and other products received a big boost when a Missouri jury awarded the family of an ovarian cancer victim $72 million in damages.
The case of Jackie Fox, of Birmingham, Ala., who died in October of 2015 at age 62, marks the first to return a monetary award.
“This case clearly was a bellwether, and clearly the jury has seen the evidence and found it compelling,” Stanford University law professor Nora Freeman Engstrom told the Associated Press.
Engstrom said while the verdict “doesn’t bode well for Johnson & Johnson,” the case definitely will be appealed, and the large sum probably will be revoked.
“Big jury verdicts do tend to be reined in during the course of the appellate process, and I expect that to be the case here,” Engstrom said.
Marvin Salter, Ms. Fox’s son, who lives in Jacksonville, Fla., said that, growing up, the well-known white bottle of talc was a bathroom staple.
“It just became second nature, like brushing your teeth,” Salter said. “It’s a household name.”
In a written statement, Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said linking baby powder to ovarian cancer “goes against decades of sound science proving the safety of talc as a cosmetic ingredient in multiple products.” The plaintiff’s attorneys crushed Goodrich’s theory when they dug up an internal memo from September of 1997 that likened denying the link between talc and ovarian cancer to denying the link between smoking and lung cancer.
Johnson & Johnson touts its age-old product on its Web site. A page titled “The Facts About Talc Safety” reads: “The safety of talc is based on a long history of safe use and more than 30 years of research by independent researchers, scientific review boards and global authorities.” It also says studies show there is “no causal relationship between talc and ovarian cancer.”
But the New Jersey-based company has been called out for years by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to remove harmful chemicals from its products, specifically 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde. An agreement was reached in 2012 to eliminate the possible carcinogens from all adult and baby items by the end of 2015.
The verdict was reached in circuit court in St. Louis following five hours of deliberations and a three-week trial.