Johnson & Johnson were told to pay $72 million in damages to an Alabama family, after a family member died from ovarian cancer allegedly caused by using the company’s Baby Powder.
Jackie Fox’s family was awarded $10 million in actual damages and $62 million in punitive damages by a Missouri state jury Monday night.
When she was initially diagnosed with cancer – apparently due to the inclusion of talc in baby powder and other hygiene products from J&J – she joined dozens of other women suing the health giant for the similar reasons. They argue it’s J&J’s responsibility to warn customers about the dangers of talc.
Fox’s lawyers claimed the company knew about the risks of talc used in feminine hygiene products.
Eva Chalas, chief of Gynecologic Oncology and Director of Clinical Cancer Services at Winthrop-University Hospital, says it’s difficult to link ovarian cancer with talc exposure, however.
“The information on talc powder came out many years ago when they saw talc incorporated in tissue of women with ovarian cancer,” she said.
Doctors had begun telling women to avoid talcum powder for hygiene, but that’s when talcum powder contained talc that had asbestos, too. Modern talc has none.
“Some cancer may have been from years ago potential contamination with asbestos when they made the talcum powder,” Chalas said.
Carol Goodrich, a Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman, said the company still stands by its use of talc in their products, and will evaluate alternative legal options.
“The recent U.S. verdict 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 in a statement.
This could just be the start for Johnson & Johnson. The company is facing 1,200 still-pending lawsuits. They’re expected to appeal the Fox case’s verdict; it’s the first claim case to result in monetary compensation.