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California verdict awards $417 million to plaintiff in J&J talc case

By Deanna Utroske

22-Aug-2017
Last updated on 22-Aug-2017 at 17:55 GMT2017-08-22T17:55:36Z

California verdict awards $417 million to plaintiff in J&J talc case

The judgement was announced Monday evening and is the largest monetary judgement against Johnson & Johnson in these sorts of cases and the first to come out of California, a state known for its strict personal care ingredient regulations.

As J&J has done in similar cases, the company immediately indicated that it would appeal the Los Angeles jury’s verdict: “We are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder,” Carol Goodrich, a J&J spokesperson told Bloomberg.com. “We are preparing for additional trials in the U.S. and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder.”

Risks and benefits

Eva Echeverria, the plaintiff in this case, had used J&J talc products for feminine hygiene for decades and claims a link between that use and her terminal ovarian cancer. Her suit alleged that Johnson & Johnson did not warn customers about the ingredient’s health risks.  

"We are grateful for the jury's verdict on this matter,” Mark Robinson, Echeverria’s lawyer, tells the press, “and that Eva Echeverria was able to have her day in court.”

$347m of the verdict is for punitive damages and the remaining $70m is for compensatory damages.

Consumer education

This is the fifth such loss in court for J&J. And, the company could face over 5,000 cases similar to this one around the country and hundreds of them are on track to be heard in California.

Last year when decisions in talc / cancer cases against J&J were coming down, the company posted a blog item called the Facts About Talc. And then the company launched a site dedicated to Facts About Talc . This consumer education content comes up readily in search much of the time; but when cases like Echeverria’s are decided it gets buried a bit by the headlines. 

As far as SEO and brand reputation are concerned, it’s interesting to note that this week J&J is also making headlines for what’s being called the company’s stance on capital punishment. The Wall Street Journal and other financial publications are reporting that J&J’s “Janssen Pharmaceuticals is opposing Florida's plan to use of one of its drugs in an upcoming execution,” as Kinsey Grant explains on TheStreet.com .

Influence marketing

With each verdict against J&J in these talc / cancer cases it becomes more difficult for the consumer public to believe that talc is safe. And to some extent each verdict must influence consumer purchasing decisions and brand trust.

“J&J needs to see they not only have verdicts against them in St. Louis, they now also have them in Los Angeles,” Robinson says in his statement to the press. “There’s a problem all over the country with women using talcum powder on [a] daily basis for 10, 20, 30, 40 years.”

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