US$72M award over talc use

National Post (Latest Edition) - - WORLD - Yanan Wang Wash­ing­ton Post

• Jac­que­line Fox died last fall, but her voice re­cently came alive in a St. Louis court­room.

In an au­dio de­po­si­tion, the Birm­ing­ham, Ala., na­tive who died at 62 re­counted 35 years of us­ing John­son & John­son prod­ucts con­tain­ing tal­cum pow­der, from its trade­mark baby pow­der to its shower-to-shower body pow­der.

More than three years ago, she was di­ag­nosed with an ovar­ian can­cer that proved fa­tal. Fox then joined more than 1,200 women from across the U. S. su­ing John­son & John­son for fail­ing to warn con­sumers of the dan­gers as­so­ci­ated with talc, the min­eral in baby pow­der.

This week, her case be­came the first in which mon­e­tary com­pen­sa­tion was awarded. A Mis­souri jury or­dered the com­pany to pay Fox’s fam­ily US$ 72 mil­lion in ac­tual and puni­tive dam­ages.

The other de­fen­dant, talc pro­ducer Imerys Talc Amer­ica, has not been faulted.

“We have no higher re­spon­si­bil­ity than the health and safety of con­sumers and we are dis­ap­pointed with the out­come of the trial,” John­son & John­son said Tues­day. “We sym­pa­thize with the plain­tiff ’s fam­ily but firmly be­lieve the safety of cos­metic talc is sup­ported by decades of sci­en­tific ev­i­dence.”

The award — US$ 10 mil­lion in com­pen­satory dam­ages, US$62 mil­lion in puni­tive dam­ages — will likely be re­duced in ap­pel­late courts, Stan­ford law pro­fes­sor Nora Free­man Engstrom said.

One ju­ror, Jerome Ken­drick, said he was swayed by in­ter­nal com­pany memos pre­sented at trial.

“They tried to cover up and in­flu­ence the boards that reg­u­late cos­met­ics,” he said, adding, “They could have at least put a warn­ing la­bel on the box, but they didn’t.”

One memo from a com­pany med­i­cal con­sul­tant likened ig­nor­ing the risks as­so­ci­ated with “hy­gienic” talc use and ovar­ian can­cer to deny­ing the link be­tween smok­ing cig­a­rettes and can­cer — in other words, “deny­ing the ob­vi­ous in the face of all ev­i­dence to the con­trary.”

The New Jersey- based com­pany faces many more law­suits re­lated to tal­cum prod­ucts it has made house­hold names.

A pathol­o­gist found Fox’s ovaries were in­flamed from talc, which then turned into can­cer.

While stud­ies have as­so­ci­ated reg­u­lar talc use with ovar­ian can­cer for decades, the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety notes there is no defini­tive re­search on whether as­bestos-free talc — the kind widely used in con­sumer prod­ucts — causes ovar­ian can­cer.




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