A jury in St Louis, Alabama, has awarded $72million to the family of Jacqueline Fox who sued pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson after developing ovarian cancer as a result of using their talcum products. Ms Fox sadly died last year aged 62. The verdict was the first such case against Johnson & Johnson, of which there are more than 1,000 throughout the United States, to result in a monetary award.
Jurors found Johnson & Johnson liable for fraud, negligence and conspiracy following the trial.
Many cancer experts believe the link is still not proven. It is likely that Johnson and Johnson will lodge an appeal so this is, by no means, the end of this matter.
It has been reported that Johnson & Johnson, in an effort to maintain sales, failed for decades to warn consumers that its talc-based products could cause cancer. So far, around 1,000 cases have been filed in Missouri state court, and another 200 in New Jersey.
So, with the conflicting expert evidence, do we all stop using talcum powder? Will future generations of babies never experience the talcum powder feeling?! Further, we will see similar claims in the UK in the future?
Roderick Bagshaw, Associate Professor of Law at Oxford University said: “Whether we will see claims against baby powder producers in England is likely to depend to a great extent on the nature of the scientific evidence that supports the proposition that such powder causes cancer. In England such cases would involve having to convince a judge, rather than having to convince a jury, and the judge would have to be convinced not just that powder can cause cancer but also that a particular claimant’s cancer was caused (or contributed to) by the powder.
Professor Bagshaw went on to add “A problem claimants frequently face is that if their cancer could have been caused by many different things then it is hard to show that one of them made a difference.”
Cancer Research UK takes an interesting stand on its website by stating
“If something truly causes cancer, you would expect people who are exposed to more of that thing to have a higher risk. For example, the more you smoke, the higher your risk of lung cancer. But the majority of the studies have not found a similar relationship for talc use and ovarian cancer.”