On Tuesday, a Missouri jury sided with the family of the late Jackie Fox in a civil suit against the iconic baby powder producers, two years after her diagnosis and just a few months after her death.
The AP reports that Fox’s suit was part of a larger claim in the city of St. Louis Circuit Court that included 60 people, all testifying that the “hygienic” use of Johnson & Johnson talcum powder directly contributed to their illnesses. Johnson & Johnson has been under scrutiny for years about the dangerous ingredients in their baby and personal use products, such as 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, which they swore to remove by 2015 after much negative publicity.
There was some conflict in testimony about the dangers of talc itself:
Spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said Tuesday that the New Jersey-based company was considering its next legal move. In a written statement, she said the verdict “goes against decades of sound science proving the safety of talc as a cosmetic ingredient in multiple products,” citing supportive research by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and National Cancer Institute.
At trial, Fox’s attorneys introduced into evidence a September 1997 internal memo from a Johnson & Johnson medical consultant suggesting that “anybody who denies (the) risks” between “hygenic” talc use and ovarian cancer will be publicly perceived in the same light as those who denied a link between smoking cigarettes and cancer: “denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”
It’s unlikely that the enormous jury award will make it through the appellate process, but the ruling itself is a very big deal. Johnson & Johnson is still facing 1,200 pending lawsuits, and there may be many more down the pipe.
Jackie Fox’s son, Marvin Salter, took over as the plaintiff for his foster mother after her passing. In his testimony he described how the brand infiltrated her life, saying, “It just became second nature, like brushing your teeth... It’s a household name.”
Image via AP.
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