I have written about talcum powder previously. Indeed, I have not only opined on the slippery substance, but I am also a regular consumer of the product. Talcum powder has become magic legal dust that brings forth zillions of dollars to those who have been attacked by the poisonous toxin.
Just last year, I informed readers of $55 million and $72 million judgments to cancer victims who used powder against the manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. Earlier this year a Missouri woman was awarded $110 million in damages.
Recently, a jury in California, where the cost of everything is stratospheric, ordered J&J to pay $417 million in damages to a victim of ovarian cancer. The jury clearly wanted to send the company and corporate America a monetary message that went beyond the pinprick judgment that was issued against J&J last year.
Readers at this point are invited to consider what would constitute reasonable damages if it were proven true that the product caused the cancer and the company knew of this risk and did not provide adequate warning to the public. Make your guess before reading on.
Here are some price comparisons to test your sanity:
Private Gulfstream jet: $70 million
Penthouse in NYC’s Plaza hotel: $40 million
Alexander Hamilton autograph: $1,000
Bentley automobile: $230,000
100 meter super yacht: $275 million
California jury award: $417 million
You may resume breathing now. Of course, the plaintiff’s attorneys were able to string a circuitous array of dots that connected talcum powder to cancer in front of a jury who was likely more sympathetic to a dying victim than to a mega corporation. But, sympathy is not evidence and being a successful company does not define negligence.
This mega-judgment is rendered beyond absurd when one accepts that there is no convincing and consistent scientific conclusion that talcum powder is the responsible agent. The studies have largely demonstrated an association, which are not designed to determine cause and effect.
What should product manufacturers do? Should every package include a boxed warning that the product can cause misery and death just to cover themselves? Perhaps, not. This would only give customers anxiety, pain, and suffering. Guess what would happen next?
Michael Kirsch is a gastroenterologist who blogs at MD Whistleblower.
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