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Case Code: CLBE024
Case Length: 6 pages 
Period: 2014-2016  
Pub Date: 2016
Teaching Note: Not Available
Subject : Business Ethics
Organization :Johnson & Johnson
Industry : FMCG (Personal Care)
Countries : The US

Johnson&Johnson's Talcum Powder Controversy: Putting Profits before Consumer Safety?



This case discusses about several controversies faced by American multinational pharmaceutical, medical devices, and consumer packaged goods manufacturer Johnson & Johnson (J&J). The company had been facing issues since 2014 when Chicago-based law firm, Moll Law Group filed its first lawsuit on behalf of its client, Barbara Ross (Ross), a woman in Chicago who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Ross believed that her cancer was due to her daily use of J&J’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower.

The law firm filed a complaint in the US District Court for the Northern district of Illinois alleging that J&J had already known or should have known about the potential risks associated with the use of its products and against its negligent practices in failing to warn the consumers. The plaintiff also stated that J&J engaged in fraudulent and deceptive marketing though it was aware of the scientific evidence that talcum powder might increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer. The plaintiff sought a jury trial and punitive and compensatory damages from J&J.
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  • Discuss the challenges faced by J&J with regard to its talcum powder controversy.
  • Analyze whether J&J’s communication strategy during a crisis can help it restore the faith of its customers in the company.
  • Design a crisis management and public relations strategy for J&J to prove its customers than it did not value profits over their safety.
In May 2016, a St. Louis jury ordered American multinational pharmaceutical, medical devices, and consumer packaged goods manufacturer Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to pay US$ 55 million in damages in a lawsuit filed by a woman who claimed that the company’s talcum powder-based products had caused her ovarian cancer. This was the second lawsuit J&J lost in 2016. Earlier in February 2016, J&J was ordered by another St. Louis court jury to pay US$ 72 million in damages to the family of a woman in Alabama, who passed away from ovarian cancer. Despite paying two hefty compensatory damages, the company maintained that its products were safe and announced plans to appeal against the recent decision..


Johnson & Johnson,Baby Powder,Ovarian cancer,Compensatory damages,Punitive damages,Negligent practices,Deceptive marketing,Public awareness,Campaign for Safe Cosmetics,Public relations,Crisis management strategy,Brand dilution,Lawsuits

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