Jacqueline Fox, National Law Journal
Mesh News Desk, February 24, 2016 ~ Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is on the hook for $72 million to the family of a women who used the company’s talcum powder and developed ovarian cancer that killed her last year.
Of that $62 million is punitive damages intended to send a strong message to the company.
The trial in St. Louis Missouri was the first state court case over J&J’s baby powder with more than 1,200 other similar cases pending.
Jackie Fox, 62, of Birmingham Alabama was part of a claim in St. Louis Circuit Court that includes 60 people. The women allege J&J knew of the risks and link to ovarian cancer but failed to warn consumers.
Ms. Fox died in October 2015, two years after her diagnosis. Her son took over as the plaintiff, reports AP.
The talcum powder is sold as Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower. Her son said the powder was a bathroom staple for years and just became second nature like brushing your teeth.
A J&J spokeswoman said to Bloomberg,
“We have no higher responsibility than the health and safety of consumers and we are disappointed with the outcome of the trial. We sympathize with the plaintiff’s family but firmly believe the safety of cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence.”
It took jurors four hours to deliver their 10-2 decision against J&J on claims of failure to warn, negligence and conspiracy. The jury foreman says the company’s internal documents were “decisive” in their decision.
“It was really clear they were hiding something," said Krista Smith of St. Louis. She added all they had to do was warn consumers in their label, but the company did not.
Jere Beasley (Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles) told The National Law Journal that plaintiffs had internal documents from 1997 that showed the company knew nine studies existed that showed the link of its talcum powder to cancer. A letter from a former consultant warned the findings could compare the talc industry to cigarettes which Beasley called a "devastating document."
Shower-to-Shower was marketed to women for feminine hygiene. “Just a sprinkle a day keeps odor away,” was the slogan. The product was sold to Valeant Pharmaceuticals International in 2012.
The problem with talc is it can be contaminated with asbestos fibers. Talc is mined from the soil and can contain magnesium, silicon, oxygen and hydrogen, used to absorb moisture. There is more on talc reported by the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep here.
J&J, the largest US healthcare products company, has had problems over its other consumer products such as No More Tears baby shampoo. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has put the consumer push on the company to eliminate questionable ingredients from its products including formaldehyde and probably human carcinogens.
Johnson & Johnson's Ethicon division is facing more product liability litigation over its pelvic meshes than any other manufacturer. J&J also made the power morcellator that's been implicated in helping spread an aggressive uterine cancer.
Earlier this month, Ethicon, a division of J&J, lost a pelvic mesh action in Philadelphia where the plaintiff was awarded $13.5 million and the TVT made by Ethicon was found to be defective. Jurors awarded $10 million in punitive damages. Read about the Carlino case here.
In December, a different plaintiff in the same Philadelphia courtroom was awarded $12.5 million in damages against the company, which included $7 million punitive damages. Read more on the Hammond case here.
Just this week, the Mentor ObTape trial in Georgia resulted in a $4.4 million award for Teresa Stevens which included $4 million in punitive damages. Johnson & Johnson acquired Mentor Corp in 2009 and in doing so, acquired its Mentor ObTape litigation. See the story here. #
US News on $72 million verdict, Feb 23, 2016
National Law Journal
Power Morcellator and the Risks of Uterine Sarcoma Dissemination, August 2014, Dan Bolton