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Unproven risks and the changing legal landscape

When manufacturers bring products to the market that are potentially dangerous, consumers in New Jersey and elsewhere across the country may find themselves at risk. However, there are those who question whether the exposure of theoretical or speculative hazards to the public is beneficial. Case results suggest that in spite of opposing sentiment, failure to warn consumers of a possible safety hazard could leave companies and their insurers open to significant legal risk, even if the danger has not yet been scientifically confirmed.

Three staggering verdicts against Johnson & Johnson in 2016 highlight the pitfalls that companies might encounter if they fail to warn the public of unproven risks. In each case, plaintiffs claimed that use of the company's talcum powder products caused their ovarian cancer and that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn them of this hazard. Although a connection between the genital use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer has not yet been scientifically established, juries awarded the plaintiffs $72 million, $55 million and $70 million respectively.

The awards included punitive damages and were intended to serve both as a retribution and a deterrent. Johnson & Johnson has staunchly defended its position that the use of talc is not known to cause ovarian cancer. As of early 2017, scientific literature has continued to support this position. Government regulators, researchers and other experts also caution that warning consumers of unproven dangers could cause the public to become inured to all warnings.

The issue remains controversial, however. In light of the Johnson & Johnson rulings, individuals in New Jersey who believe that they may have suffered an injury in connection with a potentially dangerous product may find it beneficial to seek counsel from a products liability attorney. A lawyer who understands the complexities of the New Jersey Products Liability Act may be able to help such individuals successfully navigate the legal process.

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