A Missouri state court has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million to the family of Jacqueline Fox, whose death from ovarian cancer was linked to Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products.
After 35 years of using the products for feminine hygiene, Ms. Fox was diagnosed with ovarian cancer more than three years ago. Believing there was a connection, Ms. Fox subsequently joined more than 1,200 women nationwide in suing Johnson & Johnson for its failure to warn consumers of the carcinogenic dangers associated with talc, the mineral used in the company’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products.
While Ms. Fox ultimately passed away as a result of her cancer, her case continued on, revealing misconduct that went beyond a simple failure to warn by Johnson & Johnson. Such behavior included attempted cover-ups, as well as what one company medical consultant described as “denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary,” in a memo which also made a direct comparison between talc’s dangers and the risks associated with smoking cigarettes.
In the end, the Missouri Jury saw fit to award Ms. Fox’s family $10 million in actual damages, and another $62 million in punitive damages for Johnson & Johnson’s conduct.
Currently, talc-based or talc-containing products are categorized as cosmetics. As such, they do not undergo review by the Food and Drug Administration. However, this may change. Ms. Fox’s case stands as a clear illustration of the major risks that can be associated with cosmetic products, and underscores the need to improve regulation and oversight in this industry.
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