In a recent court decision, Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest maker of health care products, must pay $72 million to the family of a woman who claimed that the company’s products caused her ovarian cancer and ultimately her untimely death. This recent verdict was the first time a jury found that Johnson & Johnson had to pay damages related to the company’s talc-based products.
The plaintiffs claimed that the woman’s fatal ovarian cancer was caused by the company’s use of talcum powder in its products, including in its baby powder and Shower to Shower brand. Johnson & Johnson advertised its Shower to Shower brand (which included talc) for feminine hygiene, claiming that “just a sprinkle a day keeps odor away.” In 1999, the American Cancer Society advised women to use cornstarch-based products in the genital area. Cornstarch is generally now used instead of talc as an absorbent in baby powder and feminine hygiene products. However, Johnson & Johnson continues to use talc in some of its products and maintains that it is safe. The woman used the products for 35 years for feminine hygiene. More than three years ago, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which ultimately caused her death at age 62.
Johnson & Johnson’s lawyers argued that the plaintiffs could not prove that the talcum-based products caused or contributed to the development of the woman’s cancer. However, the jury disagreed. One of the jurors commented, “It was really clear they were hiding something.” She added that the company simply needed to put a warning label on its products. Among other evidence presented, there was one memo from a company medical consultant that compared ignoring the correlation between hygienic talc use and ovarian cancer to denying the correlation between smoking cigarettes and cancer. Another company document pointed out that as people were becoming more aware of the risks, sales were declining, and it suggested strategies for making blacks and Hispanics the highest users of talcum powder.
The jurors reached a verdict after just four hours of deliberations. After the verdict, the company’s spokeswoman stated that health and safety were Johnson & Johnson’s highest responsibility and that they were disappointed with the outcome of the trial. The company reiterated that it believes that cosmetic talc is safe.
Johnson & Johnson has 1,200 lawsuits against it, linking its baby powder and Shower to Shower products to ovarian cancer. These women claim that the company knew of the risk and failed to warn its customers.
Requests for Production in Illinois
In this case, the company’s documents seemed to be very influential for at least some jurors in finding the company liable. But sometimes it is not easy for a plaintiff to get hold of these documents. A plaintiff has to know how to request and obtain the relevant documents. Normally, these documents are obtained before trial through “requests for production.”
Requests for production are part of pre-trial discovery. They allow parties in civil litigation in Illinois to access information held by other parties and nonparties that are relevant to the subject matter in the case. These requests can include emails, letters, photos, recordings, internal memos, reports, computer data, and text messages. If illegitimate requests are made, they can result in court sanctions, including attorney’s fee awards and even the dismissal of the case. Each party must also be careful to preserve relevant documents. An intentional destruction or omission of relevant documents will likely result in severe sanctions.
Do You Have Symptoms After Using Harmful Products?
If you have symptoms that you believe could have resulted from using talc-based products or another defective product, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. At Moll Law Group, our Chicago injury lawyers represent people who have suffered injuries due to harmful products. We have represented consumers for decades, and billions of dollars have been recovered in cases in which we were involved. Call us at 312-462-1700 or fill out our consultation form to set up a free initial consultation.
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