At the age of 62, Jacqueline Fox died of ovarian cancer. A resident of Alabama, Fox was diagnosed with the disease three years before her death. Ovarian cancer is one of the most under-detected cancers for women since many of its symptoms mimic other conditions.
Approximately four months after her death, Fox’s family was awarded $72 million in a talc lawsuit Fox filed against Johnson & Johnson. As it turns out, she and her family had strong reasons for believing that the pharmaceutical corporation had misled her and thousands of other women about the safety of their talc-based products.
Claims Against Johnson & Johnson
Fox’s lawsuit (Hogan et al v. Johnson & Johnson et al) alleged that her 35-year use of Shower-to-Shower Body Powder caused her to develop ovarian cancer. The lawsuit, which included more than 60 other plaintiffs, also alleged that Johnson & Johnson lied to regulatory agencies about the safety of their products in addition to hiding the risks of their talc product from consumers.
The civil trial lasted for three weeks, and the jury returned their verdict a mere four hours after they were sent to deliberate. Fox’s surviving family members were awarded $10 million in actual damages based on her medical expenses and other costs related to the diagnosis, plus another $62 million in punitive damages.
Johnson & Johnson is currently considering an appeal of the verdict. The company continues to deny that their Shower-to-Shower talc product contributed to the development of the cancer that cost Ms. Fox her life.
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Did Johnson & Johnson Know about the Risks?
According to Fox’s lawsuit, Johnson & Johnson not only knew about the risks of their talcum powder products, but company officials also lied to regulatory agencies and hid the risks of talc-based powder from consumers. After the verdict, Johnson & Johnson released a statement stating that they “sympathize with the plaintiff’s family but firmly believe the safety of cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence.”
Despite J&J’s claims that their product is safe for use by the public, the plaintiff’s legal team introduced an damning internal memo from Johnson & Johnson written in September 1997 by a medical consultant. The memo warned anyone “who denies [talcum powder] risks” and its connection of ovarian cancer would be likened to people who deny that smoking leads to lung cancer, rejecting “the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”
While it appears that Johnson & Johnson had information related to a possible link between ovarian cancer and the use of talc powder, the company did not begin to remove known carcinogens from their products until 2012.
Does Talcum Powder Cause Ovarian Cancer?
There are studies that indicate talcum powder can cause ovarian cancer. Yet, not all women who use talc-based bath and body powders develop ovarian cancer. Because of this, the science is not yet settled, and some people may believe it is safe to use.
The Fox case is important because most other talcum powder and ovarian cancer cases against Johnson & Johnson that came before it were thrown out due to a lack of evidence. While there are contradicting studies about whether talc contributes to the development of cancer, there are some things that we do know.
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer believes that talc may be possibly carcinogenic to humans based on epidemiological and experimental evidence. The American Cancer Society says that studies between talc and ovarian cancer are mixed at best, but that it is likely that any overall increase would be small.
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer believes that talc may be possibly carcinogenic to humans based on epidemiological and experimental evidence.
Despite the alleged safety of talc-based powders, pediatricians and other medical professionals discourage the use of baby powder that contains talc. Impurities in talc include asbestos. Since studies are ongoing on talc and whether it is indeed linked to the development of cancer, the American Cancer Society has urged those who are concerned about the possible link to reduce or eliminate their use of talcum powder.
Know the Signs of Ovarian Cancer
If you’re a woman who has used Shower-to-Shower Body Powder, Johnson’s Baby Powder, or other talc-based hygiene powders, you should watch for the signs of ovarian cancer. Because many of the symptoms are often linked to other conditions, ovarian cancer can go untreated until it is too late.
Ovarian cancer is the fifth-most diagnosed cancer in women. Statistically, 1 in 75 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
If you’ve been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and you have a history of using talcum powder products, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer. Currently, there are still more than 4,000 cases against Johnson & Johnson regarding their talcum-based products.
The Fox case was the first major award against Johnson & Johnson to an ovarian cancer patient based on documentation from the company itself. But other cases have been won since then, and now the door is open for women to fight back against J&J’s negligence. Don’t wait – talcum powder cases are time sensitive. If they’re not filed within a certain period of time after the diagnosis, you may be unable to file your claim at a later date.