In the first award of its kind, a Missouri jury has awarded $72 million to the family of a woman whose ovarian cancer was linked to her talcum powder use. Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer of Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, was ordered to pay the award after the victim’s family presented evidence at trial showing that, while the corporation was aware of a cancer risk, it did nothing to warn the public of the possible link between cancer and talc use.
Jacqueline Fox was a resident of Birmingham, Alabama, and had used both Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower for over 35 years. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer three years ago, and ultimately passed away from the disease in 2015, before the trial had concluded. An expert pathologist testified during the three-week trial that Fox’s ovaries contained talc, and that the mineral caused inflammation and, ultimately, the cancer that killed her. The plaintiff attorneys also presented evidence from an epidemiologist that 10% of all terminal cases of ovarian cancer are linked to use of talc-containing products.
Johnson & Johnson argued that there is no conclusive evidence that talc products cause cancer, and that the FDA has publicly stated that the connection between talc and cancer had not yet been proven. Additionally, Johnson & Johnson argued that, even if it had warned customers of the possible connection between cancer and talc, they would not have stopped using talc products. While research on the link between talc and cancer remains in dispute, the evidence which seemed most persuasive to the jury in the granting of such a large award was that of Johnson & Johnson’s own internal documents discussing the research. Internal memoranda showed that, as early as the 1980s, Johnson & Johnson was aware of a possible link between talc and cancer, but continued nevertheless to market the products, and had in fact deliberately begun marketing the products to African-Americans and those of Hispanic descent, two demographic groups most likely to use talcum powders. Ultimately, the jury found that Johnson & Johnson had committed fraud, conspiracy, and negligence, and awarded the Fox family $10 million in compensatory damages and $62 million in punitive damages.
This is not the first case filed against Johnson & Johnson based on the link between ovarian cancer and its talc-containing products. In October of 2013, a jury in a federal trial in South Dakota found that Johnson & Johnson had negligently failed to warn its customers that there was a possible cancer risk from regular use of talc-containing products, and found a link between the baby powder products the plaintiff had used for over 30 years and the ovarian cancer she developed. However, the jury declined to award the plaintiff any damages in that case.
Currently, there are over 200 active lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson filed in New Jersey, as well as over 1,000 more filed in Missouri. After the award of damages to Jacqueline Fox’s family, these cases may soon be consolidated, or brought on a class action basis. Additional trials for lawsuits based on ovarian cancer linked to talc products have been set for the spring and summer of 2016.
If you believe that you or someone you love has been the victim of cancer caused by talc, or of another defective or dangerous medical product, seek the compensation you deserve for these injuries from a Kentucky jury by contacting Lexington personal injury attorney Stephen M. O’Brien for a consultation at 859-317-2056.