A jury has awarded $72m (aust $100m) to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer.
They have said it was caused by using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and other products containing talcum.
The civil suit by Jackie Fox of Birmingham, Alabama, was part of a broader claim in the city of St. Louis circuit court involving nearly 60 people. Her son took over as plaintiff following his mother’s October 2015 death at 62, more than two years after her diagnosis.
Marvin Salter of Jacksonville, Florida, said his late mother, who was a foster parent, used the brand of talcum powder as a bathroom staple for decades. “It just became second nature, like brushing your teeth,” he said. “It’s a household name.”
Mrs Fox claimed she used two of the company’s talc-based products – Baby Powder and Shower to Shower – as feminine hygiene produces for more than 35 years before being diagnosed three years ago with ovarian cancer.
An attorney for Fox said the jury verdict Monday night, which came after nearly five hours of deliberations at the conclusion of a three-week trial, was the first such case among more than 1,000 nationally to result in a jury’s monetary award.
The jury said that Fox was entitled to $10m in actual damages and $62m in punitive damages. Attorney James Onder said he “absolutely” expects Johnson & Johnson – the world’s biggest maker of healthcare products – to appeal the verdict.
In May 2009, a coalition of groups called the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics began pushing Johnson & Johnson to eliminate questionable ingredients from its baby and adult personal care products. After three years of petitions, negative publicity and a boycott threat, the company agreed in 2012 to eliminate the ingredients 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, both considered probable human carcinogens, from all products by 2015.
Carol Goodrich, a Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman, said: ‘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.’
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