Johnson & Johnson hit the news headlines this week with yet another personal injury settlement announcement filed by a plaintiff for the effects of the long-term use of one of the company’s iconic baby powder products.
The Los Angeles based trial lasted four weeks. At the end of the trial, the jury awarded Eva Echeverria, aged 62 years, $70 million in damages and an additional amount of $347 million in what is referred to as punitive damages which is punishing Johnson & Johnson for negligence by failing to inform potential consumers that using their talcum powder product in a women’s genital area could heighten the chance of developing ovarian cancer.
10 years ago Echeverria was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using the talcum powder she said she had used thousands of time over 40 years of her life. It wasn’t until many years later following the viewing of a TV report that discussed the connection between the use of talc powder and ovarian cancer that she stopped using the product. Unfortunately, not knowing the risk earlier enough resulted in her developing the deadly disease. It was too late to stop the spread of the cancer, even after chemotherapy.
This is not the 1st personal injury settlement for Johnson & Johnson
A similar case early in 2016 resulted in Johnson & Johnson being forced to pay out $72 million in a damages award to the family of ovarian cancer sufferer Jacqueline Fox, who had died in 2015 from the fatal disease after she had been using Johnson’s Baby Powder almost every day on her underwear since her teenage years.
The amount awarded is far higher than other product liability cases filed against Johnson & Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri and is the 3rd highest personal injury award in the country so far this year. By March this year, more than 1,000 women throughout the United States had sued Johnson & Johnson for failure to reveal the potential risk of developing ovarian cancer from using its Baby Powder.
Johnson & Johnson set to appeal
Up to now the company has lost most of the personal injury cases filed for the use of its talcum powder products, but it is still insistent that the product is not dangerous. Following this week’s verdict, Carol Goodrich, a spokesperson for the company, said that despite Echeverria’s devastating ovarian cancer diagnosis the company said that scientific evidence did not support that the product was dangerous to use.
Johnson & Johnson knew of potential cancer risk since 1982
Before products are released for use by the public the company marketing the product is required to ensure the product is safe to use. This has clearly not been the case for Johnson & Johnson as it was back in 1982 when the journal “Cancer” highlighted the connection between talc use and ovarian cancer. Further research revealed that the talcum powder can cause an inflammation of the ovaries to develop via the genital tract which can result in cancer developing. It appears that the executives of Johnson & Johnson as announced by the attorney representing Echeverria knew of the potential risk in 1975 as it was recorded in internal documents in circulation throughout the company at that time. They decided not to act on the findings and continued to aggressively market the product.
Two types of compensation were awarded
When a plaintiff wins a personal injury claim in court there are different types of damages awarded depending on the nature of the injury. In this recent case Echeverria was awarded both compensatory and punitive damage. Compensatory damages are awarded the most often, while punitive damages may be awarded in cases of serious injury or a fatality that was considered to have taken place by the defendant’s extreme negligence.
The sorts of things that are covered under compensatory damages include:
- present and future medical treatment;
- loss of enjoyment of life;
- present and future loss of wages or loss of earning potential;
- present and future emotional stress and pain and suffering;
- loss of consortium with your spouse or family caused by the injury.
Punitive damages aren’t a compensatory payment for the injury to the victim but are typically used as a way of punishing the party that caused the injury due to sheer negligence. It’s a way of warning the defendant that its behavior is unacceptable and should not happen again. The victim is entitled to receive the punitive damages as has happened in the Echeverria case announced this week.
If you believe that you are a victim of a personal injury in New York that is not your fault, you shouldn’t take the blame yourself but contact a New York personal injury attorney who will decide if you are eligible to file a personal injury claim.