Judgment Against Johnson & Johnson Tops $70 Million
A St. Louis jury recently awarded the family of Jackie Fox $10 million in compensatory damages and $62 million in punitive damages after finding that Ms. Fox’s fatal ovarian cancer was linked to Johnson & Johnson brand talc powder. The verdict – reached after four hours of deliberation – is the first in the nation in which a jury has awarded damages against Johnson & Johnson. The family of Ms. Fox contended not only that her development of the ovarian cancer was due to long-term exposure to the talc, but also that Johnson & Johnson knew of the dangers its talc posed to consumers. Despite their knowledge of the risks, Johnson & Johnson did nothing to warn consumers. Ms. Fox’s suit is one of about 1,200 lawsuits that allege Johnson & Johnson’s talc powders are linked to the development of ovarian cancer in women.
Internal Documents Proved to be “Decisive”
At trial, lawyers for Johnson & Johnson argued that the evidence connecting Ms. Fox’s ovarian cancer to the use and exposure to its talc to be flimsy at best. Lawyers for Johnson & Johnson further contended that it was clear the cause of Ms. Fox’s ovarian cancer was unknown. According to the jury foreperson, however, the internal documents of Johnson & Johnson were “decisive” in the jury’s findings.
Those findings included that Johnson & Johnson knew of the dangers associated with its talc products but hid these dangers from consumers like Ms. Fox. Johnson & Johnson began marketing its Shower to Shower brand talc in 1988 as a feminine hygiene product. In the late 1990s, however, the American Cancer Society began advising women to use cornstarch-based products instead of talc-based products like Shower to Shower.
Warning Sign Needed
The jury foreperson declared that the evidence was “really clear” that Johnson & Johnson was hiding “something.” The jury ultimately concluded that the “something” being hidden included the health dangers associated with Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based powders. In general, manufacturers of products who know or have reason to know that their products pose a risk of illness or harm to their consumers must alert consumers of that risk unless the risk is so obvious and apparent that a minimally-informed consumer would be aware of the danger. Because of the nature of the danger to women posed by Johnson & Johnson’s product – and the fact that it was affirmatively marketed to consumers in a way that would encourage its use by women – the jury determined that a warning sign was needed on Johnson & Johnson’s talc products. The failure to do so was seen by the jury as a way to “hide” or “conceal” the danger from the public.
Bertram & Amell is a Washington, D.C. law firm that focuses on consumers injured by dangerous drugs and medical devices. If you or a loved one developed ovarian cancer after prolonged use of Johnson & Johnson talc powders, or if you were injured by another dangerous product, contact our office right away and schedule your initial consultation. You can reach our office by calling (888) 991-5245 or by contacting us online.