Johnson & Johnson’s attorneys recently asserted that the plaintiffs’ lawyers “have deliberately created confusion about the science of talc at trial.”
Jere L. Beasley, principal and founder of Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C., whose trial team represented two plaintiffs in recent trials linking talcum powder to ovarian cancer, issued a statement refuting J&J’s claim, and, in fact, saying just the opposite is true.
“It is the height of irony that Johnson & Johnson would claim that our trial team are the ones trying to create confusion surrounding the scientific evidence linking use of talcum powder for feminine hygiene to ovarian cancer,” Beasley stated. “We have internal documents – including one from talc supplier Imerys – where the companies have bragged for years about the need to create more confusion regarding the issue of cancer and talc. I challenge Johnson & Johnson’s lawyers to meet with me anytime, anywhere, so that we can jointly release all internal documents and the trial transcripts. What are they hiding from?”
In February a City of St. Louis Circuit Court jury awarded the family of Jacqueline Fox $72 million, finding Johnson & Johnson liable for her ovarian cancer that led to her death. In May, another jury in St. Louis found Johnson & Johnson liable for ovarian cancer linked to its talcum powder products and awarded a South Dakota woman, Gloria Ristesund, $55 million.
An article published by AL.com about the truth debate noted that documents were shown to jurors during the trials in which “Johnson & Johnson’s own consultants advised the company that numerous scientific studies supported a clear link between genital use of talcum powder and an increased risk of ovarian cancer.”
Some of these documents were revealed on national TV just following the February verdict. CBS showed a document from 1997 revealing one of Johnson & Johnson’s consultants noted that studies “did show a statistically significant association between hygenic talc use and ovarian cancer,” and on the Today Show a document was revealed where one of Johnson & Johnson’s medical consultants warned against “denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”
Bloomberg wrote about the documents from Imerys, formerly called Luzenac. In 2000, talc, when used perineally, was about to be voted a possible human carcinogen by scientists with the National Toxicology Program, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bloomberg reported that the plaintiffs’ attorneys claimed that Luzane and Johnson & Johnson exerted influence and deferred the decision and the attorneys introduced the following quote from Luzenac executive, Richard Zazenski, to a colleague written after the decision was deferred: “We, the talc industry, dodged a bullet in December, based entirely over the confusion of the definition issue.” He also discussed a coming NTP review, saying, “Time to come up with more confusion!”
Juries were presented with this information as well as other internal documents from Johnson & Johnson and they were convinced that the company owed Gloria Ristesund and the family of Jackie Fox big, awarding huge punitive damages. In fact, in the first trial, the jury awarded $62 million in punitive damages. In an interview that aired on NBC’s Today Show, Beasley said, “I’ve had very few juries award more money than I’ve asked for; they awarded 1 million dollars for every year that Ms. Fox had lived and we’d only asked for 10 to 15 million.”
This isn’t the first time that Beasley has called for Johnson & Johnson to make these internal documents public. He created a petition following the Fox talc trial, saying that people deserve to know the truth and asking the company to publish the documents on their website. They have not. Two more talc trials have been slated for this fall.