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Johnson & Johnson Ordered to Pay US$72m in Baby Powder Case

A jury in the American state of Missouri, has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay damages worth US$72m to the family of a deceased woman, Jackie Fox, who died from ovarian cancer. Prior to her death, she stated that her use of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder (and other products that contained talcum) had caused her ovarian cancer.

She passed away in October 2015, and her son took over as plaintiff in a broader case, with nearly 60 others, against Johnson & Johnson.  Marvin Salter of Jacksonville in Florida, said his mother had used Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder everyday for decades. A pathologist that examined Fox’s ovaries found that they were inflamed from talc, which turned into cancer.

The jury awarded Fox’s family $10m in actual damages and $62m in punitive damages (these are damages designed to punish the defendant). It is believed that $31 million will go to the Missouri Crime Victim Compensation Fund. It is expected that Johnson & Johnson will appeal the verdict.

This follows claims that Johnson & Johnson continue to use cancer-causing chemicals in other products in America, such as their No More Tears Baby Shampoo. After pressure from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Johnson & Johnson agreed to remove the chemicals 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde from their products, by 2015. It is unclear whether they have done so.

The verdict hinged on a memo, introduced as evidence by Fox’s legal representatives. The 1997 internal Johnson & Johnson memo stated that “anybody who denies [the] risks” between “hygenic” use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer would be likened to those who denied a link between cigarette smoking and cancer, stating “Denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”

Whilst it is expected that Johnson & Johnson will appeal the verdict, they still face up to 1,200 still-pending cases, an potentially many thousands more.

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