Johnson & Johnson knew its signature talcum powder carried the risk of cancer but hid the information from consumers for decades in order to protect its flagship product, a Philadelphia jury heard during the launch of the city’s first talc trial.
An attorney for plaintiff Ellen Kleiner said during opening statements in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas that the “law is quite clear” that even though talcum powder is considered a cosmetic and not a drug, a company is responsible for ensuring its safety.
Previewing evidence the three men and 12 women will weigh over the next few weeks, Leigh O’Dell of the Beasley Allen Law Firm pointed to internal company documents dating to the 1940s that she said reveal scientific evidence that talc can cause cancer.
But that information was not conveyed to customers because J&J was determined to preserve the iconic brand’s image of “purity, sanctity and love,” O’Dell said as she showed the jury a company advertisement that depicts a beaming mother gazing at a baby.
Kleiner used J&J’s talcum powder for 34 years. The cancer had spread to her abdomen at the time she was diagnosed at stage 3B of the disease.
Kleiner underwent six rounds of aggressive chemotherapy and two operations to remove her reproductive organs. The lasting effects include numbness and tingling in her extremities and fear and anxiety.