Johnson & Johnson to pay R1,1 billion in damages for death linked to baby powder

By Samantha Luiz
24 February 2016

Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $72 million (R1,1 billion) to the family of a woman whose death from ovarian cancer was linked to her use of the company's talc-based products for 35 years.

Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $72 million (R1,1 billion) to the family of a woman whose death from ovarian cancer was linked to her use of the company's talc-based products for 35 years.

The court case revealed the death of Jacqueline Fox, from Alabama, could be linked to her use of the pharmaceutical giant's Baby Powder and Shower to Shower deodorant, The Guardian reports.

It is reported she used the products as a "bathroom staple" till she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer three years ago. She died aged 62 in October 2015.

“It just became second nature, like brushing your teeth,” said Jacqueline's son, Marvin Salter.

After deliberations that lasted four hours, the Missouri jury found Johnson & Johnson liable for fraud, negligence and conspiracy when they neglected to warn its customers that its talc-based products could cause cancer.

According to Jere Beasley, who is a lawyer for Jacqueline's family, Johnson & Johnson "knew as far back as the 1980s of the risk," and yet resorted to "lying to the public, lying to the regulatory agencies."

Over the years, the company has been targeted by health groups for the "questionable ingredients" used in its products. The link between its products and cancer remains a debated area.

Regardless, they were ordered to pay $10 million (R155 million) in actual damages and $62 million (R964 million) in punitive damages to Jacqueline's family.

The case is just one of the 1000 that have been filed at the Missouri court.

A spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson, Carol Goodrich, said: "We have no higher responsibility than the health and safety of consumers, and we are disappointed with the outcome of the trial. We sympathise with the plaintiff's family but firmly believe the safety of cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence."

According to BBC's Health Editor, concerns that the use of talcum powder, particularly on the genitals, may increase the risk of ovarian cancer, are nothing new.

"But the evidence is not conclusive," he writes. "The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies talc used on the genitals as 'possibly carcinogenic' because of the mixed evidence."

Sources: theguardian.com, reuters.com, bbc.com

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