Missouri jury orders Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million in class action over talc powder

By Jessica Karmasek | Feb 26, 2016

One of the products at issue.  

ST. LOUIS (Legal Newsline) - This week, a Missouri jury found Johnson & Johnson liable for injuries resulting from the use of its talc-containing products, awarding the family of an Alabama woman at the center of the class action lawsuit $72 million.

The St. Louis City Circuit Court, in its verdict late Monday, agreed that the company’s baby and body powders contributed to the development of plaintiff Jacqueline Fox’s ovarian cancer.

The jury found Johnson & Johnson guilty of negligence, conspiracy and fraud.

The verdict includes $10 million in actual damages and $62 million in punitive damages.

Fox was diagnosed with ovarian cancer two years ago. She used Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower for feminine hygiene for more than 35 years. She died shortly before the trial began, in October 2015, at age 62.

“What Johnson and Johnson did to cover up what it knew to be the deadly risk of its centerpiece product is simply outrageous,” said Jere L. Beasley, principal and founder of Beasley Allen Law Firm in Montgomery, Alabama.

“It is hard to imagine how corporate executives could be so callous. But the internal company documents that were brought to light through this trial show clearly that that is exactly the case.”

R. Allen Smith Jr. of The Smith Law Firm in Ridgeland, Mississippi, who also helped represent Fox and her family in the lawsuit, said the company deliberately hid the dangers of its products and refused to use a talc substitute.

“Johnson and Johnson chose to hide the risk and keep selling,” he said. “Ms. Fox and many other women have paid and will pay with their lives.”

According to the plaintiff’s attorneys, an estimated 20,000 women are diagnosed each year with ovarian cancer, and more than 14,000 die.

The disease strikes about one in 70 women, though studies show that women who use talc-containing products on their genitals have a one in 50 chance of developing the disease.

An expert at trial testified at least 45,000 women have died as a result of ovarian cancer that could be attributed to talcum powder use on the genitals, and estimated 1,500 women will die within the next year as a result of talc use.

Carol Goodrich, spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson, said in a statement that the talc used in all of the company’s products is “carefully selected” and meets the highest quality, purity and compliance standards.

“The recent jury outcome goes against decades of sound science proving the safety of talc as a cosmetic ingredient in multiple products, and while we sympathize with the family of the plaintiff, we strongly disagree with the outcome,” Goodrich said.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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