Lawsuit Filed Against Johnson & Johnson for Targeting Products Linked to Cancer to Black Women, Group Alleges

Yesterday, Ben Crump and Paul Napoli, nationally renowned civil rights and personal injury attorneys of Ben Crump Law and Napoli Shkolnik respectively, announced a lawsuit on behalf of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) against Johnson & Johnson.

The suit is being filed over the company’s targeted marketing of talcum-based baby powder specifically to Black women, despite the known associations to ovarian cancers. “The complaint requests corrective action to inform Black women and all other consumers about the risks associated with using the products and their connection to ovarian cancers,” reports the Atlanta Daily World.

Founded in 1935 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, NCNW’s mission “is to lead, advocate for, and empower women of African descent, their families and communities.” Many NCNW members have been ardent users of these Johnson & Johnson powder products, believing they were safe to use on themselves and their families.

Since at least the 1980s, some studies have shown a link between using talc-based products and cancer. Notwithstanding this knowledge, Johnson & Johnson purposefully chose to market and advertise towards Black women, as a significant component of their business strategy. In fact, “internal documents from Johnson & Johnson reveal the company’s intent…A 2009 company business plan noted that the ‘the multicultural consumer [is] highly important to business – need to maintain,’ and expressed concern that it was becoming ‘difficult to efficiently retain core aa consumer,” the complaint alleges.

“This lawsuit is about the lives of our grandmothers, our mothers, our wives, sisters and daughters – all of whom were cynically targeted by Johnson and Johnson…All the while, company executives knew the risk of ovarian cancer from talc,” Crump said. Co-counsel Napoli said Johnson & Johnson “put ‘profits over people, ignoring and hiding a mountain of research about the risks.”

NCNW Executive Director Janice Mathis states “This company, through its words and images, told Black women that we were offensive in our natural state and needed to use their products to stay fresh…Generations of Black women believed them and made it our daily practice to use their products in ways that put us at risk of cancer — and we taught our daughters to do the same. Shame on Johnson and Johnson.”