It's a huge blow for Johnson & Johnson, and a huge win for the family of a woman who blamed the company's products for her ovarian cancer. In St. Louis on Monday, a jury awarded $72 million to the family of Alabama's Jacqueline Fox: $10 million in actual damages and $62 million—$1 million for every year that she lived—in punitive damages, Courthouse News reports. Fox, who died in October but testified in a video deposition, said she used the company's talc-based Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products for feminine hygiene for 35 years. The family's lawyers said the company covered up evidence the products could cause cancer and the jury agreed, finding Johnson & Johnson liable for fraud, negligence, and conspiracy, reports Reuters.
The evidence included internal memos that lawyers argued showed that Johnson & Johnson was aware of the link between talc and ovarian cancer for more than 30 years but covered it up. Fox's son, Marvin Salter, became the plaintiff after her death. He tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Johnson & Johnson was a company name he had trusted. "My reaction was disbelief," he says. "How can a company have known about this relationship between talc and ovarian cancer since the 1970s and not disclosed it?" Fox's case was the first to go to court, but there are around 1,200 similar ones in Missouri and New Jersey. The company says "the safety of cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence" and it plans to appeal the ruling. (Another alleged cancer risk: This laminate flooring from China.)