Despite my work representing those injured by bad products, when I think of Johnson & Johnson, I cannot help but think of the warm, soft and tender skin of an infant.
That is, after all, the image that the company has carefully crafted for itself through its marketing message, “Warm, soft, tender”, and has helped them sell millions of baby products worldwide, including one of their most popular items: baby powder, also known as “talcum powder”.
However to the family of Jacqueline Fox in Birmingham, Alabama, the popular Johnson & Johnson product will forever remind them of something much different: cancer, death, devastation and corporate greed.
According to a recent press release, a St. Louis, Missouri jury found Johnson & Johnson guilty of negligence, conspiracy and fraud, due to the fact that they deliberately withheld information and misled the public regarding the risk of ovarian cancer associated with its talcum powder.
Studies have shown that women who use talcum powder for feminine hygiene have a 1 in 50 chance of developing ovarian cancer, and that the deaths of 45,000 women with ovarian cancer could be attributed to talcum powder use. Evidence presented by the plaintiff’s defense at trial demonstrated that Johnson & Johnson has known of the risks associated with the powder since the 1970s, but they deliberately hid and misrepresented the risks to the public.
Fox had used Johnson & Johnson baby powder for more than 35 years before being diagnosed with cancer, and she eventually lost her battle to the disease at the age of 61.
For its part, Johnson & Johnson has disputed any association between their talcum powder and ovarian cancer, and they continue to stand behind and sell the product worldwide.
Moreover, the company’s legal team will attack the verdict in various post-trial motions and appeals, which will consequently delay any monetary award to the family.
Even if the verdict survives this post-trial “war of the papers” and the Fox family realizes some level of compensation, the verdict (and particularly the plaintiffs lawyers who helped achieve it) will only add additional fodder for big businesses’ self-serving and self-manufactured “tort reform” narrative.
After all, this is baby powder we’re talking about here, right?
Whatever the outcome, we should be thankful for the courage of Mrs. Fox and her family in bringing their case, to her attorneys for going toe to toe with the biggest company on the planet with endless resources, and also to the jurors who considered all of the evidence and were courageous in their result. Maybe, just maybe, a few more people out there will recognize that image is not always reality.