Berg developed ovarian cancer when she was 49 years old—she used J&J’s talcum powder for most of her life. She had a full hysterectomy and underwent six months of painful chemotherapy. In 2013, four years after she filed the suit, the pharma giant offered Berg $1.3 million to settle, but the deal included a confidentiality clause. Berg refused, and thus became a whistleblower against J&J. Last year Berg told the New York Post that her lawsuit “was never about the money”. Rather, she wanted the world to know that for 40 years, J&J knew about the link between ovarian cancer and their talcum powder but chose to hide it from consumers. Although a federal jury found that Johnson and Johnson’s talcum powder was linked to ovarian cancer, she wasn’t awarded any money. Berg told the Post that South Dakota is a very conservative state, and there had to be a unanimous verdict on whether any compensation should be paid. Still, she was surprised at the decision.
If Berg’s trial took place in Missouri, the outcome may have been a lot different. Juries in that state awarded hefty damages to three plaintiffs in 2016. Over 10 years since Berg’s surgery, one Missouri jury awarded $72 million in damages to the family of who died from ovarian cancer.
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“In my opinion, talcum powder products should be withdrawn from the market and, until then, be clearly labeled indicating the risk,” Berg told the newspaper. “Now I hope the family of Mrs. Fox will be the first of many to be awarded damages. Some people think $72 million is excessive, but I don’t think so. How can you put a value on a life?”