Jury Awards $417 Million in Baby Powder-Cancer Case
Some words just shouldn’t go together. “computer” and “dumb,” for example. How about “baby powder” and “ovarian cancer”? While a dumb computer has (to our knowledge) not been the subject of recent litigation, the alleged development of cancer from use of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder has been.
As our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers at Aronberg, Aronberg & Green know, on Monday, August 21, 2017, a jury in California awarded a 63-year-old woman a whopping $417,000,000 after she developed ovarian cancer allegedly from using Baby Powder. She argued—and the jury apparently agreed—that her development of ovarian cancer was linked to her use, over decades, of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder (with its main ingredient talcum powder). Like many women, she used the baby powder as part of a hygiene regimen for decades, until she stopped last year after reports surfaced of links between the baby powder and cancer. (Last April, we wrote about the risks associated with the product.)
The plaintiff in the case argued that if there had been a warning label on the Baby Powder product, warning her of the risk of developing cancer from use of the powder, she would’ve quit using it long ago. Legally, as our personal injury lawyers know, because talcum powder is a cosmetic and not a medication, it need not be reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Nevertheless, the product must contain a label clearly identifying the ingredients in the bottle and the product “must be safe for use by consumers under labeled or customary conditions of use[,]” according to the FDA. Further, according to the FDA’s website, “[c]osmetic companies have a legal responsibility for the safety and labeling of their products and ingredients, but the law does not require them to share their safety information with FDA.”
The $417,000,000 jury awarded was composed of $70,000,000 in compensatory damages and $347,000,000 in punitive damages. Undoubtedly, the verdict and the jury award will the subject of an appeal by Johnson & Johnson, which argues that the science connecting Baby Powder to the development of ovarian cancer is inconclusive. Nevertheless, and regardless of whether the large award is ultimately reduced, this award and others like it serve as reminders to large corporations that they are ultimately responsible for the harms caused by the products which they send out into the marketplace.
Note that talc, the naturally occurring mineral which forms the bulk of the Baby Powder at issue, is used in food products (including rice and chewing gum). It is also used in the manufacture of tablets.