Atlanta, GA— Johnson & Johnson’s desire to protect its signature, talc-based baby powder led to a Georgia woman's fatal cancer, an attorney for the woman’s family claimed Thursday, as trial opened against the consumer products giant. Brower v. Johnson & Johnson, 16EV005534.
“[Johnson & Johnson is] protecting their corporate image, the face of the franchise. They call it their ‘sacred cow,’ at all costs,” The Smith Law Firm’s Allen Smith, said. “And the costs are [Diane] Brower’s life and … women just like Ms. Brower.”
Diane Brower, 65, died in 2016 after a three-year battle with ovarian cancer. Her family contends the disease was caused by talc in J&J’s eponymous Baby Powder, which Brower used for years.
During Thursday’s openings, Smith said evidence would show genital talc use was linked to 10 percent of ovarian cancer cases. And he told jurors internal documents would reveal that the company knew talc used in the genital area could not be absorbed safely, and that the product contained fibrous talc, which Smith said is a carcinogen.
Smith argued the company failed to warn consumers like Brower about the dangers of its Baby Powder, and did not replace the talc with a safe alternative such as corn starch. “All the time that they’re protecting the face of the franchise — their sacred cow — at all costs, there’s an alternative out there that doesn’t cause cancer,” Smith said. “That’s why it makes this conduct so reprehensible.”
This is the first Georgia case to go to trial against J&J over links between its talc and ovarian cancer. Nationwide, the company, and other cosmetic talc manufacturers, face thousands of claims alleging talc has caused a variety of cancers.
J&J counters that years of testing prove the talc in its products is safe. During Thursday’s openings, Blank Rome’s James Smith said testimony and studies would show “there’s not a basis in science to conclude that this Baby Powder causes ovarian cancer. It’s just not there.”
James Smith added that Brower’s family history of cancer likely pointed to the reason behind Brower’s disease. “She likely had an inherited genetic mutation unrelated to Baby Powder,” Smith said, “that put her at high risk.”
Trial is expected to last at least two weeks. CVN is recording the trial and will publish gavel-to-gavel video as soon as possible after the verdict.
Email Arlin Crisco at email@example.com.
The Brower family is represented by The Smith Law Firm’s Allen Smith and Beasley Allen’s Ted Meadows, Sharon Zinn, and Robert Register.
Johnson & Johnson is represented by Blank Rome’s James Smith, Sidley Austin’s Debra Pole and Eric Schwartz, Shook Hardy’s Mark Hegarty and Thompson Hine’s Ileana Martinez and Leslie Suson.