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A jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million to a woman's family after her death from ovarian cancer was linked to use of the company's talc-based products. Jacqueline Fox allegedly developed cancer after using Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and Shower to Shower for over 30 years.
She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer three years ago and passed away last October. Attorneys for Fox's family say the jury award is the first of its kind, though there are sure to many more.
Around 1,200 cases in Missouri and New Jersey have been filed against Johnson & Johnson, accusing the company of failing to warn consumers that some of its talc-based products could cause cancer. The AP reports that a company medical consultant was quoted in an internal memo as saying, "anybody who denies" that using hygienic talc could increase the risk of ovarian cancer is "denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary." And the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the genital use of talc-based body powder as "possibly carcinogenic to humans."
In this case, the jury felt the correlation between Johnson & Johnson's talc-based products and Fox's cancer was strong enough to side in her family's favor. The jury ordered the company to pay $10 million of actual damages and $62 million of punitive damages.
Johnson & Johnson continues to stand by the talc used in it products. "The recent U.S. verdict goes against decades of sound science proving the safety of talc as a cosmetic ingredient in multiple products," claimed spokesperson Carol Goodrich. "While we sympathize with the family of the plaintiff, we strongly disagree with the outcome."
A company can be held liable for inadequate instructions or warnings on products it knows to be dangerous. But it's also up to consumer to keep themselves safe as best as they can. Eva Chalas, chief of Gynecologic Oncology and Director of Clinical Cancer Services at Winthrop-University Hospital, told USA Today, "People should be careful about what they apply to their genitals, but in terms of ovarian cancer, the majority of women who develop ovarian do so from other risk factors including - age, genetic predisposition, reproductive issues and whether they were on birth control."
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