Slemp v. Johnson & Johnson

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A Missouri jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay more than $110 million to a Virginia woman after the company failed to disclose the potential cancer risks from its baby powder and another product.

Slemp v. Johnson & Johnson

Lois Slemp, 62, has won her case against health product manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. She sued the company after bing diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012. Her case alleged that J&J concealed the fact that the talc in its baby powder and Shower to Shower products has been known to cause cancer.

J&J has already lost several similar cases related to talc in their products. Verdicts of $72 million, $70 million and $55 million have already been awarded in other cases. According toa Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the company is still facing multiple federal class-action suits.

The 12-person jury in Slemp’s case deliberated for 10 hours before delivering the verdict against J&J.

“They chose to put profits over people, spending millions in efforts to manipulate scientific and regulatory scrutiny," said Ted Meadows, the lawyer representing Stemp and other similar plaintiffs. “I hope this verdict prompts J&J to acknowledge the facts and help educate the medical community and the public about the proper use of their products.”

J&J Denies Connection

J&J has repeatedly denied there is a  connection between talc and cancer as well as repeatedly rejected the suggestion that it should have warned consumers. The company released a statement in which it said that “we deeply sympathize” with anyone affected by ovarian cancer.

The company has plans to appeal this latest verdict, citing a separate case that it won in March we well as two other dismissed cases that “further highlight the lack of credible scientific evidence behind plaintiffs’ allegations.”

“We are preparing for additional trials this year and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder," the company wrote in a statement.

Bringing A Wrongful Death Lawsuit

There are two main kinds of damages that can be sought in personal injury cases: compensatory (also called “actual” and punitive.

Compensatory or Actual Damages

“Compensatory” or “Actual” means something that will compensate for the loss that occurs in a personal injury case. Typically, money is the compensation that a family or person receives. Compensatory damages means you may be eligible to receive money to compensate for:

  • Property damage
  • Loss of enjoyment of life due to injury (or death of family member)
  • Current and future medical bills to treat injuries or sustain life
  • Current and future lost wages or lost earning potential due to time spent healing from injuries
  • Current and future pain and suffering or emotional distress from injuries or loss of life

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are used to punish the at-fault party for negligence or illegal activity that resulted in harm to someone else. The thought behind punitive damages is that if a company or someone has to pay a large sum of money, they might reconsider being involved in such reckless behavior again. The negligent party can also face criminal prosecution.

As with any lawsuit, you’ll want to understand the process. The best way to know how to proceed in a wrongful death lawsuit is to work with a personal injury attorney.

Two Forms of Wrongful Death Claim

In addition to the types of damages you can seek, there are two forms a wrongful death claim can take: negligence, or intention. This means either the victim died as the result of a negligent act of the defendant. Or the victim died as the result of the defendant’s intentions to kill the victim. Some examples of negligence include: victim’s death as a result of medical malpractice or the victim dies as the result of a faulty engine in the car the victim was riding in. An example of intention is when the defendant is believed to have murdered the victim on purpose.

Proving a Wrongful Death Claim

For the defendant to be declared liable in a wrongful death claim, the claim brought must meet the same burden of proof that the victim would have had to meet if the victim was alive. In the case of a negligence trial, plaintiffs must show the defendant owed a duty of care to the victim, that the defendant breached this duty of care, and that the breach of this duty directly caused the death of the victim. In this J&J case, it would seem that the company would owe their consumer a duty of care to the victim, due to the fact that they had been made aware of a potential link to cancer.

Bringing a Wrongful Death Claim

Often the deceased person’s surviving relatives, dependents or beneficiaries bring the wrongful death suit against the responsible party or parties, seeking monetary damages for their loss. Often times the jurisdiction determines the individuals who are able to bring the claim. Generally, the primary beneficiaries (often the spouse and children, or parents of a victim) are able to bring a claim. While in some states parents of the deceased person may be also designated as beneficiaries. But, in most states, if the deceased person did not leave behind a husband or wife, any children or parents, there may be no one who will be able to bring a wrongful death claim.

In order to legally recover damages in a wrongful death action, there are some general requirements that must be met. They are as follows: (1) The death must have been caused by another’s negligence, i.e., it must be showed that the negligent person was at fault for the death; (2) if the deceased was alive, he or she would have been entitled to recover damages from the at fault party; and (3) the party or beneficiaries must meet the legal requirements to be allowed recovery of damages in the Wrongful Death action.

Wrongful death laws vary from state to state

Not every state follows the same guidelines, principles, or rules. And each state has its own set laws regarding wrongful death. A personal injury attorney can help advise you on if your wrongful death claim is valid and can help you are you pursue a claim against the responsible party or parties.

“True” versus “Survival Actions”

Some states have “true” wrongful death acts. This is when the deceased person’s survivors or next of kin are able to bring a cause of action for their damages inflicted as a result of their family member’s death. Other states have acts called “survival actions.” This form of lawsuit is brought by the survivors on behalf of the deceased person. This cause of action is for the deceased person’s pain and suffering that resulted from the injuries that caused his or her death.

In many jurisdictions, when the defendant’s negligence contributes only in part or in tandem with other circumstances to a person’s death, and not just the sole cause, liability may still be attached to the defendant.

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