By Nigel Boys
The family of Jacqueline Fox, who died in October at the age of 62, after being diagnosed three years ago with ovarian cancer, has won a verdict by a jury, which is the first in a string of several hundred claims filed against Johnson & Johnson, according to reports.
NBC News reports that a Missouri state jury ordered the pharmaceutical company to pay Fox’s family $10 million in actual damages and a further $62 million of punitive damages. The jury found her death from ovarian cancer had been linked to her use of their products for several decades.
The pharmaceutical giant’s products cited in Fox’s case were their talc-based Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, which millions of people have used for generations. Lawyers said that hundreds of other lawsuits also claim that the company had failed to warn consumers that these products could cause cancer, simply to increase their sales.
Fox, who lived in Birmingham, Alabama, claimed, as have countless other women, to have used these two products of the Johnson & Johnson for feminine hygiene reasons for over 35 years.
Lawyers for Fox’s family said that following a three-week trial and deliberations which lasted four hours, Johnson & Johnson were found liable for fraud, negligence and conspiracy by the St. Louis jurors on Monday this week.
The pharmaceutical company “knew as far back as the 1980s of the risk,” but continued “lying to the public, lying to the regulatory agencies,” said Jere Beasley, a lawyer for Fox’s family, in a conference call with journalists.
“We have no higher responsibility than the health and safety of consumers, and we are disappointed with the outcome of the trial,” said spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson, Carol Goodrich. “We sympathize with the plaintiff’s family, but firmly believe the safety of cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence,” she added.
Beasley, the principal and founder of the Montgomery-based Beasley Allen Law Firm said that a jury in North Dakota had found against the pharmaceutical company in the past, but did not award damages. He was referring to the case that found plaintiff Deane Berg’s use of Johnson & Johnson body powder products was a factor in her developing ovarian cancer, according to Al.com.
“This case is a tremendous signal to Johnson & Johnson and all the cosmetic companies,” Beasley said, predicting that cosmetics companies will now put warning labels on their talc products.
“We were able to prove statistically that 1,500 women have died every year from the association of talc and ovarian cancer,” Beasley continued. He claimed that “strong internal documents” show that the pharmaceutical company knew for years the risks of ovarian cancer caused by its talc products.
Pointing to a document from 1997, where the company had been warned by a paid consultant about what studies were showing about their talc-based products, Beasley said the company knew about the risks as far back as the 1980s.
Adding that the company is basically self-regulating and know they can just about get away with anything, Beasley claimed to have document showing the company was discussing how to defend potential lawsuits in the early 2000s.
“The corporate conduct we have seen over the past five years getting ready for this trial is just about as bad as I have seen in any area that I have practiced in,” Beasley concluded.
“Jacqueline Fox was an incredible lady whose life was cut far too short by the callous decisions by the bosses at Johnson and Johnson,” said Ted G. Meadows, a principal with Beasley Allen, agreeing with Beasley after the verdict.
The Shower to Shower brand is now owned by Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc, but they were not a defendant in Fox’s case.