Use of seemingly safe products can prove dangerous. In many instances, users may not be aware of the risks. And because such products continue to be available, states like South Dakota put in place products liability laws to hold manufacturers accountable.
For several years, Johnson & Johnson has been under the scrutiny of consumer advocate groups. According to a Reuters special report, the baby powder they manufacture was described by the World Health Organization in 2006 as being "possibly carcinogenic" for specific uses. But instead of removing the product off of the market, the company found new ways of marketing its goods.
Targeting specific groups in advertising campaigns
In a 2006 presentation, Johnson & Johnson mentioned focusing its marketing campaign for baby powder on "underdeveloped geographical areas with hot weather." Such focus included aiming advertisements at African-American women, teenagers and older individuals. It seems they felt such marketing necessary because sales of baby powder were falling.
Tragically, the use of the product had consequences. Many plaintiffs in products liability suits nationwide blame the use of this baby powder for causing ovarian cancer. Studies also show an association between the use of the powder and cancer risks.
An investigation published in December revealed that Johnson & Johnson knew that a few of their products used for hygienic purposes contained small amounts of asbestos. However, the company failed to disclose such information, and instead claims that the investigation was not accurate.
The difficulty in holding companies accountable
A defective products liability case can prove to be one of the most complex personal injury cases to try. It's difficult to prove that a product like this baby powder caused an injury. Trying such a case means retaining experts who can testify on your half to prove liability, and demonstrating in court that the product was defective.
Companies often fail to make changes to their products until challenged in court - even if the product causes an illness such as cancer. These companies will also deny any accountability. When faced with litigation, manufacturers will instead hire highly-paid legal counsel to defend them.
For this reason, it's important to retain attorneys who know how to try such cases, and who are willing to take large manufacturers on in court. Without such cases, manufacturers may continue making the same product and causing additional injuries. Other companies, seeing that they have nothing to lose, may end up doing the same thing. It's for this reason that products liability lawsuits exist.