Public Health

Johnson & Johnson to pay billions to settle talc claims

Containers of Johnson’s baby powder made by Johnson and Johnson are displayed on a shelf on July 13, 2018 in San Francisco, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Johnson&Johnson on Tuesday said it will pay $8.9 billion over the next 25 years to settle allegations that the company’s baby powder and other talc products caused cancer.

The company announced the proposed settlement in a securities filing. J&J’s subsidiary LTL Management also refiled for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after its first attempt was threatened, the filing said.

More than 60,000 claimants have committed to support the proposed resolution, which would require approval in bankruptcy court, the filing added.

“Resolving this matter through the proposed reorganization plan is both more equitable and more efficient, allows claimants to be compensated in a timely manner, and enables the company to remain focused on our commitment to profoundly and positively impact health for humanity,” said Erik Haas , J&J’s worldwide vice president of litigation, in a statement.

But J&J still pushed back on the talc allegations.

“The Company continues to believe that these claims are specious and lack scientific merit,” Haas added.

The company ended sales of its talc-based baby powder globally this year after it faced thousands of lawsuits from customers claiming its talc products caused cancer due to contamination with the carcinogen asbestos.

J&J spun off LTL management in October 2021 in a bid to reduce its losses from litigation and settlement. The company funneled its talc lawsuits to the subsidiary and immediately filed for bankruptcy protection.

A judge affirmed J&J’s ability to use the Chapter 11 strategy in February 2022.

But the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit overturned the ruling in January this year, saying neither LTL nor J&J had a legitimate need for bankruptcy protection because they were not in “financial distress.”

Leigh O’Dell, one of the lead attorneys representing plaintiffs in the talc lawsuits, told CNBC at the time that the ruling was another step toward ending J&J’s “attempted abuse of the bankruptcy system.”

O’Dell on Tuesday said in a statement to CNBC that J&J is “seeking an extremely deep discount on justice and is not really offering anything other than another bankruptcy and more delay, delay, and delay.

“This new filing should be viewed as a shameful attempt to run out the clock on people dying of cancer and convince some lawyers to give up,” she said.

Mikal Watts, one of the plaintiff lawyers who negotiated the proposed settlement, said J&J committed to “fairly compensate these deserving women” who have battled cancer due to the talc products. “Our job is to get our clients fairly paid for their injuries, and this settlement is the culmination of a job well done.”

J&J said last month it would take the case to the Supreme Court.

The company paid $7.4 billion in litigation expenses between 2020 and 2021, according to an annual filing. The company said talc litigation was a primary diver of legal costs during those years.

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