Johnson & Johnson pays $400m in compensation after product was linked to cancer
We've all used talcum powder at some point in our lives. Whether it is to stop your skin from rubbing and chafing, or you were just simply covered in the stuff when you were a kid, at some point we have all had a bottle of talcum powder patted onto us.
However, the medical, pharmaceutical and consumer giant that manufactures the product, Johnson & Johnson, is now being forced to pay out an absolutely massive fine due to the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. The company has been ordered to pay out $417 million, in what is the largest sum to have been awarded in a series of cases against the company in the US.
The case was brought forward by Eva Echeverria in Los Angeles, who is currently battling ovarian cancer. She alleges that Johnson & Johnson have failed to successfully warn their customers about the dangers of using talcum powder and its potential risks of cancer.
Echeverria says the fact that she has been using the product for over 60 years has led to her developing ovarian cancer, which she was diagnosed with in 2007. In her lawsuit, the cancer is described as developing as a "proximate result of the unreasonably dangerous and defective nature of talcum powder", and Echeverria is hoping that the company will now put additional warnings on its products moving forward.
Her attorney, Mark Robinson, said:
"Mrs Echeverria is dying from this ovarian cancer and she said to me all she wanted to do was to help other women throughout the whole country who have ovarian cancer for using Johnson and Johnson for 20 and 30 years.
"She really didn't want sympathy. She just wanted to get a message out to help these other women."
The jury's award includes $68m in compensatory damages and a further $340m in punitive damages after the jury saw internal documents in which, according to Robinson, "showed the jury that Johnson & Johnson knew about the risks of talc and ovarian cancer." Robinson went on, adding: "Johnson & Johnson had many warning bells over a 30-year period but failed to warn the women who were buying its product."
Carol Goodrich, a spokeswoman for the company said that they will be appealing the decision, but did say that they sympathise with the woman and her situation.
This isn't the first case that the company have had to deal with in the last few years. In fact, it's the fifth. The previous trials have seen a Missouri jury award $110m to a woman in 2012, while three trials in St Louis last year saw Johnson & Johnson fork out $72m, $70.1 and $55m respectively.
The charity Ovacome, who focus on ovarian cancer, have said that while there is no definitive evidence that talc causes cancer, the worst case scenario is that using talc will increase your risk of cancer by a third. However, they did issue a warning to women planning on using the product, saying:
"Ovarian cancer is a rare disease, and increasing a small risk by a third still gives a small risk. So even if talc does increase the risk slightly, very few women who use talc will ever get ovarian cancer."
It's a pretty shocking case and will no doubt make a lot of women think twice before they buy talcum powder, which is something that is so readily available at supermarkets. It will be interesting to see if Johnson & Johnson change to packaging on the bottle to reflect the new cases.