Johnson & Johnson Is Ordered by Jury to Pay $55 Million in Baby Powder Cancer Suit

The year 2016 just keeps getting worse for global healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J). Yesterday, May 2nd, 2016, the company suffered their second multi-million-dollar lawsuit for talcum powder in less than 3 months. With many more talcum-powder cases on the horizon – 1,200 to be exact – J&J seems poised for even more loss, making 2016 one of the most costly years for the $276-Billion-dollar company.

When it comes to Johnson & Johnson’s signature product – their age-old Baby Powder®, which has been around for over 120 years – the company lost their first-ever such case earlier this year when Jackie Fox, an Alabama woman, who had developed ovarian cancer from using the product, won $72 Million in damages. In that case, $62 Million was assessed in punitive damages, aimed at punishing the company for negligence.

And once again – yesterday evening – a St. Louis jury awarded $55 Million in damages to Gloria Ristesund, a South Dakota woman who had used Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder for more than 35 years before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011.

Plaintiffs like Jackie Fox and Gloria Ristesund have long contended that the company’s talc-based products can cause women to develop ovarian cancer – especially after long-term use.

The Same Story, a Different Product

What’s so sad and disheartening about all of this, is that this story – and stories like it – are not new, rather they are as old as “the corporation” itself. One need only look back to asbestos litigation of the 70s, 80s, and 90s (which still carries on today) to see a repeating pattern: big corporations focusing solely on the bottom line will do anything to maximize profits, and this includes killing people and giving them incurable cancers – even when the company knows the well-established risks associated with certain products.

Sad to say, but that story is exactly what happened here. Ms. Ristesund’s lawyers alleged that Johnson & Johnson knew of the possible health risks associated with the company’s talc-based Baby Powder® but failed to warn consumers. Why? Simple: J&J assumed that warning customers about potential dire health risks would drive profits down. So, they didn’t. Ristesund’s representation stated:

“Internal documents from J&J show it knew of studies connecting talc use and ovarian cancer but, to this day, it continues to market it as safe – neglecting any warning.”

But J&J is paying for it now. This marks the second such Baby Powder-related ruling, amassing a $127 Million total in 2016 damages for Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products alone. And that’s a mere 2 successful cases. In this year and in years to come, there will likely be much more J&J will have to fend off, as over 1,000 cases loom right on the cusp of the courts.

Still, Johnson & Johnson Contends It Did Nothing Wrong

In a statement, Carol Goodrich, a spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson, said that studies have churned up information claiming talcum powder is safe for regular use. “Multiple scientific and regulatory reviews have determined that talc is safe for use in cosmetic products and the labeling on Johnson’s Baby Powder is appropriate.”

It’s difficult to find these studies Goodrich is referring to – mostly because they are vastly outnumbered by studies that claim the very opposite.

And when one factors in that Baby Powder and Johnson’s other talc-based products are technically considered “cosmetics”, one must also take into consideration that because they are classified this way, they do not have to undergo rigorous review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This leaves wiggle room for corporations like J&J to exploit and keep their dangerous products out on the market.

They Keep on Coming: Johnson & Johnson’s Huge 2016 Losses

This latest loss for J&J is their third big, multi-million-dollar loss of 2016. In considering these large verdicts, it’s clear that the public is catching on, and that J&J is at least starting to be held accountable for their often reckless business marketing strategies. Recent losses include:

  • January 11th, 2016 Risperdal® Ruling – $124 Million
  • February 23rd, 2016 Talcum Powder Ruling – $72 Million
  • March 17th, 2016 Hip Implants Ruling – $500 Million
  • May 2nd, 2016 Talcum Powder Ruling – $55 Million

So, there you have it; J&J has lost at least $751 Million – well over half a billion dollars – in dangerous and defective product and drug lawsuits in 2016 alone, and the year is not yet half-way over. Not to mention the company is still fighting ongoing cases against its transvaginal mesh, its anti-psychotic drug Risperdal®, its blood thinner Xarelto®, and its diabetes drug Invokana®, among others – all of which are tied up in litigation around the country, and will likely bring further losses for J&J.

The plaintiff in Monday’s ruling was awarded $5 Million in compensatory damages and $50 Million punitive damages. Johnson & Johnson released a statement that the New Jersey-based company is beginning the appeals process to the ruling, and that they stand by and will continue to stand by the safety of their products.

Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of wrongdoing and their families.

Last modified: September 28, 2020