The jury has been deliberating since yesterday over evidence presented in the fifth St. Louis talc trial. Plaintiff Lois Slemp blames her four decades of daily use of Johnson and Johnson’s talc-containing products for the development of her ovarian tumors, diagnosed in 2012. She is one of thousands of women who have brought suits against the pharmaceutical giant for not warning them of the decades of studies linking talc to increased risk for ovarian cancer.
Law360 reports that in closing arguments Slemp’s attorney Allen Smith of The Smith Law Firm said, “These defendants instead of just letting the science dictate how they act, they took a war-like mentality and fought regulation by influencing the FDA and the other agencies that are supposed to police this kind of talc, there’s nothing more reprehensible than that.”
He encouraged jurors to hold Johnson and Johnson responsible for their failure to warn consumers and their further action taken to conceal talc’s ovarian cancer risk from the public. Jurors hold the power to do that by imposing punitive damages that will cause the $70 billion company to take note. Last year three juries did exactly that.
In 2016 Johnson and Johnson lost six of the year’s seven largest jury verdicts in the U.S. over product defect claims, and three of them were over talc. In February, the first of the Missouri talc trials ended with damages of $72 million. The jury said that they chose to award one million dollars punitive damages per year of the deceased Jacqueline Fox’s life to her estate. In May, plaintiff Gloria Ristesund was awarded $55 million, and in October plaintiff Deborah Giannecchini was awarded $70 million.
According to Law360, Smith told the jury that one-quarter of one-percent of Johnson and Johnson’s $70 billion value would be $175 million. “They’re not going to warn unless you all do something about it, and the only way you can do that through this court is through monetary damages,” said Smith to the jury this week. “So you can see what I’m talking about as far as the numbers and how you can affect their conduct.”
The goal of the punitive damages is to push Johnson and Johnson to concede to begin to warn women about the dangers of using talc for feminine hygiene.