Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million to woman died of ovarian cancer

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Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson has been ruled to pay $72 million to the family of an Alabama woman who died from ovarian cancer. Her family claimed that her death was a direct result of use of the company’s talc powder for nearly 50 years. Her son Marvin took over as plaintiff following his mother’s death.

Jacqueline Salter Fox lost her battle against cancer in October at age 62, more than two years after her diagnosis with ovarian cancer.

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There are more than 1,000 cases nationally against the giant company.  Ms Fox is entitled with the payout and is the first one to result in monetary award. The $72 million payout represents to $10 million in actual damages and $62 million in punitive damages.

A Fox lawyer said the Missouri jury verdict, which came Monday night handed the payout to the family of Jacqueline Fox. The deliberations lasted for five hours following a three-week trial. The lawyer Jere Beasley said that the jury found that the world’s biggest maker of healthcare products was “lying to the public” and also to the “regulatory agencies” about product safety.

The cosmetic giant company Johnson & Johnson has been previously targeted by health and consumer groups. In May 2009, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics began. These coalition of groups pushed Johnson & Johnson to eliminate questionable ingredients from its baby and adult personal care products. In 2012, after three years of petitions, negative publicity and a boycott threat, the company agreed to eliminate the ingredients 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde from all products by 2015. These both ingredients are considered probable human carcinogen. In 2013, a federal jury in South Dakota found that the company’s powder was linked to ovarian cancer. However, no damages were awarded at that time.

At trial, Fox’s lawyers introduced into evidence. It consisted of a September 1997 internal memo from a Johnson & Johnson medical consultant suggesting that “anybody who denies [the] risks” between “hygienic” talc use and ovarian cancer will be publicly perceived in the same light as those who denied a link between smoking cigarettes and cancer: “denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”

Talc mineral is naturally occurring and is mined from the soil. It is composed of magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Talc is used in various prodcuts, to absorb moisture, prevent caking and improve the product’s feel.

Carol Goodrich, a Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman said, “The recent U.S. verdict goes against decades of sound science proving the safety of talc as a cosmetic ingredient in multiple products”. She further added “We sympathize with the family of the plaintiff but we strongly disagree with the outcome. The safety of cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence”.

Talc is classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” by The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization. No clarity is given on the fact that, ‘products containing talcum powder increase cancer risk’, added the American Cancer Society.

Talcum powder containing products are classified as cosmetics and hence, they do not have to undergo review by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA states that “Such products must be properly labeled and must be safe for use by consumers under labeled or customary conditions of use”.

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