J&J loses again

J&J loses again

This week the consumer packaged goods company was order to pay millions to yet another woman who developed ovarian cancer following use of Johnson & Johnson’s talc products.

Well over one thousand lawsuits are in process against the company for failing to warn consumers about the risks of talc.

With plans to appeal this latest verdict, J&J is standing its ground. And, today the company site welcomes visitors with a headline boasting “4 Important Facts About the Safety of Talc.”

While, Carol Goodrich, a Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman, is telling the press that “the verdict contradicted 30 years of research supporting the safety of cosmetic talc.”

Damages

The case decided this week was brought by Gloria Ristesund, who used J&J talc products for decades. Reuters reports that “According to her lawyers, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had to undergo a hysterectomy and related surgeries. Her cancer is now in remission.”

A Missouri State jury awarded Ristesund $5m in compensatory damages and $50m in punitive damages. The trial itself lasted three weeks, while jury deliberations took less than one day.

Mounting losses

A similar case was decided in February in favor of Jacqueline Fox, who had used the company’s talc products for 30+ years. That jury, also in Missouri, found Johnson & Johnson was liable for fraud, negligence, and conspiracy. Fox was awarded $72m, $10m of which was compensatory.

Following the Fox case, Goodrich said "We have no higher responsibility than the health and safety of consumers, and we are disappointed with the outcome of the trial.

Sharing the blame

Talc suppliers are falling under scrutiny now too. Imery Talc America was named in another recent case brought against J&J.

While that company’s material safety data sheet for talc does indicate the potential risk of ovarian cancer from prolonged use, the supplier may not have done enough to warn consumers.

Lawyers from the team that represented Ristesund are calling for J&J to settle the outstanding cases against the company, which consumers would likely see as an admission of guilt. If the responsibility for consumer safety indeed extends back to suppliers is another matter.

“Whether or not the science indicates that Baby Powder is a cause of ovarian cancer,” marketing management expert Julie Hennessy told Bloomberg Businessweek recently, “Johnson & Johnson has a very significant breach of trust.”

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