Analyzing Another J&J Baby Powder Case

Erik Bernstein crisis management, litigation-related crisis management 1 Comment

Setting the tone for nearly 2,000 pending cases

A St. Louis jury deliberated for barely three hours before returning with a $70 million award for a woman who claimed decades of using baby powder resulted in her being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Johnson & Johnson has been battling claims like this in courts across the country as it seems nobody can land on a consensus regarding whether baby powder can actually cause cancer. Several cases have been thrown out, while nearly 2,000 (that’s not a typo, J&J is facing almost TWO THOUSAND cases) cases are still pending, meaning every decision against J&J steers the company closer to a series of massive payouts.

J&J isn’t taking the threat laying down, and caught our eye with a nice dose of oft-forgotten compassion in their communications regarding the case:

October 27, 2016 – Johnson & Johnson will begin the appeals process after a jury in the Judicial Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis in Missouri returned a verdict today in favor of the plaintiff in a trial involving cosmetic talc.

Statement from Carol Goodrich, spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.:

“We deeply sympathize with the women and families impacted by ovarian cancer. We will appeal today’s verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder. In fact, two cases pending in New Jersey were dismissed in September 2016 by a state court judge who ruled that plaintiffs’ scientific experts could not adequately support their theories that talcum powder causes ovarian cancer, a decision that highlights the lack of credible scientific evidence behind plaintiffs’ allegations.”

For additional information on cosmetic talc, please visit

Making statements about legal battles is always difficult because you’re limited in what you can say. This is the standard, “We will appeal because we’re right” message that typically follows a decision against any party, but it also included a healthy dose of compassion up front. This made it effective in communicating two points –  first that J&J does care about the negative situation being experienced by its accusers, and second that it has what it believes to be proof that the claims against its brand are misplaced. As long as J&J continues to keep this in mind through all communications it will be positioned to mitigate the damage from the many pending cases, though of course it will be up to their legal team to make the greatest impact they can on what those initial damages are ruled to be.

Erik Bernstein

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