In a long overdue move last month, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) announced it will stop selling talc-based Baby Powder worldwide next year. It was a move the Beasley Allen Talc Litigation Team has been pursuing for nearly nine years. The firm’s Mass Torts Section Head, Andy Birchfield, has been working with the team in its efforts and had this to say:
Today we can see with crystal clarity the positive impact our work has on a global scale!
Johnson & Johnson announced that it will no longer sell its talc-based, cancer-causing Baby Powder any place in the world. The withdrawal of this sweet-smelling but deadly product that has been in homes across the world for generations is HUGE for public health. This move is a result of the effort led by the Beasley Allen team to litigate and make known the dangers of talc-based Baby Powder.
J&J is one of the richest, most powerful corporations in the world. And in recent times, at least, it operates as the mafia of the corporate world. J&J’s Baby Powder was not just one of its many products – Baby Powder was its flagship brand and has long been closely associated with its image. So, this withdrawal was fiercely resisted. It is monumental and will save countless lives!
The fight continues to get financial relief for J&J’s cancer victims but today is a day to celebrate the positive difference we are making in the world. I am incredibly proud and thankful to be part of the Beasley Allen Team!
Ted Meadows explained that when he and David Dearing and Ted’s paralegal, Katie Tucker, started looking closely at the possibility of suing J&J over its talc-based Baby Powder, “many thought they had lost their minds.” He continued:
But Beasley Allen’s leadership never hesitated to get behind the effort. They had seen what we [the firm] had done in a ten-year effort to bring justice for thousands of breast cancer victims of hormone therapy and knew we had the knowledge base, experience and stamina to take on a corporate giant in yet another women’s health litigation.
In 2013, what would become Beasley Allen’s Talc Litigation Team first learned of the increased risk of ovarian cancer for women who used talcum powder as part of their daily hygiene routine. The team has since successfully compiled evidence showing the hazards Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower. It exposed J&J’s own internal documents demonstrating the company’s knowledge that its talc-based products significantly increased a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer. The documents presented evidence that the company refused to warn its clients of the dangers by repeatedly attempting to bury damning proof, including numerous epidemiological studies dating back to the 1970s showing talc’s link to ovarian cancer. The team joined with others to file complaints in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, Missouri, beginning in 2014. The lawsuits included hundreds of women and their families with the courage to take a stand against the corporate giant J&J. Ted recalled:
Over the next [more than] two years, our ranks would grow as we filed multiple lawsuits, hired experts and prepared for the first trial. In January 2016, Jere Beasley, David Dearing, Brittany Scott and I represented Marvin Salter (son of the late Jacqueline Fox) in what was the first plaintiff award in the Baby Powder Litigation – $72 million. By the way, Jere delivered the most brilliant 15-minute re-close I’ve ever seen in my life.
In 2013, Jacqueline (Jackie) Fox, a cousin to Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It was linked to her daily use of J&J Baby Powder for feminine hygiene. As one of the first plaintiffs to go trial, Beasley Allen’s lawyers uncovered new evidence revealing J&J’s internal strategy regarding the marketing of Baby Powder during Ms. Fox’s trial. The evidence included documents detailing the company’s strategy to intentionally target women with deceptive marketing schemes, especially women of color.
The scheme was designed to prey on a cultural tradition of women of color – using talcum powder for daily hygiene. The campaign intentionally misled consumers with biased information about the safety of its products. J&J then used its influence to prevent regulators from classifying talc as a carcinogen.
Ms. Fox lost her battle with ovarian cancer two years after her diagnosis. Her son continued her efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of talc-based products. Mr. Salter testified before Congress four years after her death, telling lawmakers his mom sought justice after learning the cause of her disease. He had this to say about his mother:
“Her spirit was never broken despite what happened to her body. She smiled through it all.” He continued, “I was not involved in her decision to file a lawsuit, but I supported her fully. She wanted to raise awareness for women about the risk of cancer. Unfortunately, she never made it to her trial.”
Ted explained what unfolded in the litigation following Ms. Fox’s trial:
Over the next 16 months, David, Brittany, Ryan Beattie and I would return to St. Louis for five more trials and amass a 4-1-1 record – with additional wins and verdicts, including $55 million, $70 million and $110 million. In the second half of 2017, David, Ryan and I would also go to Los Angeles to win a $417 million verdict and to New Jersey, where we would lose a Daubert-like hearing that was later reversed by the New Jersey Supreme Court with choice words about the trial judge’s performance.
None of this would have been possible without the work of so many at Beasley Allen as well as other law firms who have contributed to the fight.
Ted described how all the firm’s early work laid a foundation that would be used by Leigh O’Dell and Michelle Parfitt, Co-Lead Counsel in the Talcum Powder Multidistrict Litigation (MDL), and other firms to create a compelling and thorough presentation of the science establishing causation between the genital use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer that would ultimately prevail in a Daubert proceeding. Just weeks after the MDL Court denied J&J’s motions to exclude Plaintiffs’ scientific evidence, J&J announced it would no longer sell Johnson’s Baby Powder in the United States and Canada. As Ted shared, “That announcement, by far, was the most satisfying moment of my 30-plus year career, but it was bittersweet as J&J callously declared they would continue selling it in other countries – ones with no civil justice system.”
On August 11, 2022, J&J announced it would no longer sell Johnson’s Baby Powder with talc worldwide. After decades of knowing the cancer risks caused by its iconic brand, J&J did the right thing. Leigh also commented: “It is inexcusable that J&J waited so long to take this step, but I am grateful that women, men and children from around the world – many of whom have no idea of the dangers, no consumer protection laws, and little to no healthcare – will no longer be put at risk.”