A St. Louis jury ruled on Monday that Johnson & Johnson must pay the family of Jacqueline Fox $72 million in damages for the role its products played in the woman’s death from stage-3 ovarian cancer after a two-year battle, St. Louis Today reports.
The 62-year-old Alabama woman used the company’s products, including the popular baby powder and Shower-to-Shower feminine wash, for approximately 35 years. The court ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay Fox’s family $10 million in actual damages and $62 million in punitive damages—one million dollars for each year of Fox’s life.
Of the over 1,200 suits that J&J is currently facing in regards to its products’ link to cancer, Fox’s family is the first to be awarded, though J&J has issued a statement claiming the brand’s products are safe.
“We have no higher responsibility than the health and safety of consumers and we are disappointed with the outcome of the trial,” Carol Goodrich, a J&J spokeswoman, said Tuesday in an emailed statement. “We sympathize with the plaintiff’s family but firmly believe the safety of cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence.”
Despite the company’s protests, reports Bloomberg.com, “a federal jury in North Dakota found in 2013 that a woman’s use of its talc-based body powder contributed to her developing ovarian cancer. The panel awarded no damages, however.”
The jury in Fox’s case felt that Johnson & Johnson was purposely being dishonest, even though it was aware of the risks associated with talcum and ovarian cancer. They further believed that if J&J really cared about consumers, it would put warning labels on the products.
Jerome Kendrick, 50, one of the jurors, said he and nine women voted in Fox’s favor, and two men against. The company’s internal emails “pretty much sealed [Kendrick’s] opinion.”
“They tried to cover it up and influence the boards that regulate cosmetics,” Kendrick said.
Those with the greatest risk of ovarian cancer are Black and Hispanic women who are more likely to use the products, but the company is still pursuing them as customers. According to one internal memo, J&J execs discussed the decline in sales because Black and Hispanic women were becoming more aware of the health risks.
Attorney for Fox’s family, Jere Beasley, has partnered with other lawyers to identify nearly 6,000 potential cases, and were also able to prove that at least 1,500 ovarian cancers cases per year are talc-involved.
Fox’s son Marvin Salter said the decision came as a surprise. “I was speechless when we heard the initial number,” the 46-year-old man said. “To think, how groundbreaking this could be for so many other people.”
Other cases against Johnson & Johnson will go to state court in April, and to federal court in July.