Johnson & Johnson might pay US$72 million over talc tied to woman's cancer

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This is the first time J&J has been ordered by law to pay damages over long-standing claims "that its talc-based products could cause cancer."

According to The Straits Times and Bloomberg Business, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has been asked to pay US$72 million (S$101 million) to the family of a woman who said her fatal ovarian cancer was the result of the use of J&J's talcum powder.

Yesterday (Monday 22), jurors in St. Louis concluded after four hours of deliberation, that J&J -- the world's largest maker of health-care products -- should pay US$10 million in compensatory damages and US$62 million in a punishment award to Jackie Fox's family.

Jackie died last year of ovarian cancer after reportedly using Johnson's baby powder and another of their talc-based products for years.

This is the first time J&J has been ordered by law to pay damages over claims that it knew years ago "that its talc-based products could cause cancer and failed to warn consumers," say both news reports.

Currently, J&J is facing over 1,000 lawsuits that claim studies have associated the company's baby powder and its Shower-to-Shower product to ovarian cancer.

Women who have used these products allegedly claim J&J knew of the health risk, yet failed to warn customers.

Krista Smith, the jury foreman, called J&J's internal documents "decisive" for jurors, say news reports.

“It was really clear they were hiding something,” said Smith, quoted by news reports. “All they had to do was put a warning label on.”

Lawyer for J&J Gerard Noce did not comment on the verdict, according to both The Straits Times and Bloomsberg Business.

Meanwhile, Allen Smith, a lawyer for Jackie Fox's family, said, “It was a just verdict given the horrible conduct of J&J.”

J&J's Shower to Shower brand talc has been marketed for feminine hygiene purposes, with one 1988 ad promising “just a sprinkle a day keeps odor away.”

Talc is used in many products, ranging from wallboards to the powder that keeps balloons from sticking together. In the US, the Statistic Brain Research Group estimates baby powder to be an $18.8 million market, with around 19 percent of US households using J&J's brand, according to another research group, Statista.

In 1999, the American Cancer Society recommended that women use corn starch-based products instead of talc in the genital area.

J&J, which introduced a baby powder using corn starch in the 1970s, continues to offer products that include talc and maintains the substance is safe, say The Straits Times and Bloomberg Business reports.

In Fox's case, jurors were asked by her family's lawyers "to find J&J officials hid its talc products’ health risks and should pay at least $22 million in damages."

Sources: The Straits Times, Bloomberg Business.

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