(Reuters) — Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) was ordered by a Missouri state jury to pay $72 million in damages to the family of a woman whose death from ovarian cancer was linked to her use of the company’s talc-based Baby Powder and Shower to Shower for several decades.
In a verdict announced late Feb. 22, jurors in the circuit court of St. Louis awarded the family of Jacqueline Fox $10 million in actual damages and $62 million in punitive damages, according to the family’s lawyers and court records.
The verdict is the first by a U.S. jury to award damages over the claims, the lawyers said.
Johnson & Johnson faces claims that, in an effort to boost sales, it failed for decades to warn consumers that its talc-based products could cause cancer. About 1,000 cases have been filed in Missouri state court, and another 200 in New Jersey.
Fox, who lived in Birmingham, Ala., claimed she used Baby Powder and Shower to Shower for feminine hygiene for more than 35 years before being diagnosed 3 years ago with ovarian cancer. She died in October 2015 at age 62.
Jurors found Johnson & Johnson liable for fraud, negligence and conspiracy, the family’s lawyers said. Deliberations lasted 4 hours, following a 3-week trial.
Jere Beasley, a lawyer for Fox’s family, said during a conference call that Johnson & Johnson “knew as far back as the 1980s of the risk,” and yet resorted to “lying to the public, lying to the regulatory agencies.”
“We have no higher responsibility than the health and safety of consumers, and we are disappointed with the outcome of the trial. We sympathize with the plaintiff’s family but firmly believe the safety of cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence,” J&J spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said.
Trials in several other talc lawsuits have been set for later this year, according to Danielle Mason, who also represented Fox’s family at trial.
In October 2013, a federal jury in Sioux Falls, S.D., found that plaintiff Deane Berg’s use of Johnson & Johnson’s body powder products was a factor in her developing ovarian cancer. Nevertheless, it awarded no damages, court records show.