Johnson & Johnson went to trial on claims it caused three women’s cancers, with jurors hearing that the corporate giant tolerated “death and destruction” to maintain the “baby company” halo conferred by its flagship product.
A St. Louis jury was told the trial would prove that J&J had been a bad actor when it came to long-held knowledge about talc’s dangers.
The plaintiffs are Debra Marino, who died of ovarian cancer in 2015; Susan Vogeler; and Victoria Giese, still living.
A lawyer for the three, Allen Smith, argued that the reason J&J kept selling the talcum powder despite multiple warnings and studies over the decades linking talc to cancer was simply that the product itself was an avatar for the company. It was an ambassador for every good feeling the public had about the company. And so it stayed on the market.
“All that death and destruction to maintain a corporate image,” Smith said. “All that anybody recognizes of Johnson & Johnson is a baby company. They like that benign image over all of those products that they sell.
Baby powder, he said, is “their golden egg.”
Marino, a former surgical technician, was diagnosed in 2009 at age 45, and died in 2015 after six years of treatment.
Vogeler, who comes from a law enforcement family, was diagnosed in 2009 at age 51 and endured a dozen rounds of chemotherapy. She is currently in remission.
Giese, diagnosed in 2013 at age 44, has had two recurrences and is in treatment for the second one.