Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis Jury Orders Johnson & Johnson to Pay $72 Million in Talcum Powder Cancer Case

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis Jury Orders Johnson & Johnson to Pay $72 Million in Talcum Powder Cancer Case

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * A jury here has awarded $72 million in damages on a woman's claim that her longtime use of baby powder and other Johnson & Johnson products contributed to the ovarian cancer that killed her.

The St. Louis Circuit Court jury found that the company failed to warn the public and conspired to hide the truth, said Jim Onder, one of the lead attorneys, who practices in Webster Groves.

Johnson & Johnson, a health care giant based in New Brunswick, N.J., is expected to appeal. It issued a statement Tuesday insisting the products are safe.

The plaintiffs' lawyers said it was the first jury in the nation to award damages over claims that are the basis of suits by at least 1,200 women here and elsewhere.

The verdict in favor of Jacqueline Fox was for $10 million in actual damages and $62 million in punitive damages. About half the punitive damages would go toward the Missouri Crime Victim Compensation Fund, Onder said.

Fox, 62, of Birmingham, Ala., died last fall, about 2 years after being diagnosed. Her son, Marvin Salter of Jacksonville, Fla., became plaintiff after her death. Jurors heard from Fox in an audio deposition.

The suit claimed her use for more than 35 years of talc- containing products, such as Johnson's Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder for feminine hygiene, contributed to her cancer.

The more than three-week trial culminated in nearly five hours of deliberations Monday that delivered a decision about 10:15 p.m. Jere Beasley, one of Fox's lawyers, said the vote was 10-2.

One juror, Jerome Kendrick, 50, said he and nine women voted in favor of Fox, two men against.

The company's internal memos "pretty much sealed my opinion," Kendrick said. "They tried to cover up and influence the boards that regulate cosmetics."

He added, "They could have at least put a warning label on the box but they didn't. They did nothing."

He said the $62 million total was calculated at $1 million for each year of Fox's life.

Salter, 46, a mortgage banker, said: "I was speechless when we heard the initial number." He added, "To think, how groundbreaking this could be for so many other women."

He said Johnson & Johnson is a household name he always trusted. "My reaction was disbelief. How can a company have known about this relationship between talc and ovarian cancer since the 1970s and not disclosed it?"

He was the only biological child of Fox, a single mother who also raised foster children.

Onder said that after being diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer, Fox contacted lawyers based on a TV ad about talc.

"The sad part is, she had to learn about it from lawyer ads, while Johnson & Johnson tried to hide the truth from her," he said.

Beasley said the jury found against Johnson & Johnson, a holding company, and Johnson & Johnson Consumer Cos. Inc., but did not fault another defendant, the talc producer, Imerys Talc America Inc. …

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