The $72 million verdict delivered this Monday, Feb. 22, finding Johnson and Johnson liable for a woman’s ovarian cancer death has been all over the news this week. Their talc-based products, which includes the company’s premier product Johnson’s Baby Powder, were alleged to have caused plaintiff Jacqueline Fox’s cancer. She died in October at age 62 after a nearly three-year battle with cancer just before the trial began.
In an interview that aired on NBC’s Today Show Thursday, Jere Beasley, the family’s attorney, said “I’ve had very few juries award more money than I’ve asked for; they awarded one million dollars for every year that Ms. Fox had lived and we’d only asked for ten to fifteen million.” The verdict included $10 million in actual damages, and $62 million in punitive damages. Punitive damages are damages exceeding simple compensation and awarded to punish the defendant. In this case, it was the jury’s decision to dramatically increase the amount of money used as punishment.
During the trial, internal documents came to light that showed the company had known of the cancer risk from talc for decades. A CBS News report shows documents from 1997 where one of Johnson & Johnson’s consultants noted that studies “did show a statistically significant association between hygenic talc use and ovarian cancer,” and the Today Show report showed a document where one of Johnson & Johnson’s medical consultants warned against “denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”
As Johnson and Johnson expresses sympathy for the family while expressing their plans to appeal the verdict, Beasley is publicly requesting that J&J make all of the internal documents the jurors saw about the dangers of talc available to the public on its website.
Other than the brief glimpses of highlighted pages shown in recent news reports, nobody – other than the jurors – have ever seen the incriminating documents. That includes the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
According to Bloomberg Business, after seeing the documents it was an easy decision for jurors:
“The jury foreman, Krista Smith, called the company’s internal documents ‘decisive’ for jurors, who reached the verdict after four hours of deliberations. ‘It was really clear they were hiding something,’ said Smith, 39, of St Louis. ‘All they had to do was put a warning label on.’”
“When the jury saw the reports on studies, along with internal letters and memos that Johnson & Johnson had in its files about talc dangers – the jurors were stunned. Obviously this company knew its product had a link to ovarian cancer, but chose to do nothing and refused to warn women,” said Beasley.
Beasley believes that the public is entitled to have access to these internal documents and then they can decide if the St. Louis jury did the right thing.
He has created a petition on Change.org, which will allow the public to call for Johnson & Johnson’s leadership to do the right thing and let the people know the truth by releasing the documents and publishing them on their website. Add your voice, and sign the petition!