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J+J fined $72 million in baby powder cancer link

Posted on over 1 year ago by Gerry Kennedy

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A Missouri jury has ruled that Johnson & Johnson must pay $72 million to the family of an Alabama woman, who claim that her death was caused by use of the company’s baby powder, and other talcum products.

Jacqueline Fox died of ovarian cancer last year, aged 62, having used the baby powder, as well as the company’s Shower to Shower product, for some 35 years as part of her daily routine, and believing that it contributed to her cancer. Upon her death, the case was taken up by her son.

Lawyers for the family argued that Johnson & Johnson was aware the product was linked to a risk of cancer, but failed to warn customers in an effort to protect sales. After some five hours of deliberation, the jury ruled in the Fox family’s favour, finding the company guilty of fraud, negligence and conspiracy. One juror said internal memos shown in the trial convinced him the company tried to influence cosmetics regulatory boards.

J&J denies the claim, and says it is considering an appeal. A spokeswoman for the company comments: "We have no higher responsibility than the health and safety of consumers, and we are disappointed with the outcome of the trial. We sympathise with the plaintiff's family but firmly believe the safety of cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence."

But the fact that the three-week trial is the first of its kind to result in damages being paid over talcum products, means several thousand more cases could be filed, adding to more than a thousand already pending.

However, a Stanford University law professor told the Associated Press the amount of money awarded is likely to reduce from the $10m in damages and $62m in punitive damages given yesterday. Nora Freeman Engstrom said: "This case clearly was a bellwether and clearly the jury has seen the evidence and found it compelling. The jury was distressed by the company's conduct."

Talc is a naturally-occurring mineral, and in its powdered form, talcum, has been linked to ovarian and lung cancer. However, this link is not conclusively scientifically proven. According to the American Cancer Society, findings of studies into the possibility of a link between talc use and ovarian cancer have been “mixed”. With regard to lung cancer, the society claims “no increased risk of lung cancer has been reported with the use of cosmetic talcum powder.”

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