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Lawyer for Johnson & Johnson Must Stop Making Unsubstantiated Claims About Potential Settlement

Published: July 21, 2023

A lawyer for Johnson & Johnson must stop making unsubstantiated claims about support from plaintiffs for an $8.9 billion settlement for talc victims without backing up the claims. The lawyer was ordered to halt statements after a late June hearing in Trenton, New Jersey. Plaintiffs’ attorneys investigated the claims that Johnson & Johnson secured commitments for over 60,000 current claimants in support of the settlement. There are many plaintiffs that claim that the company’s baby powder was contaminated with asbestos, leading to ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. One of the lawyers for Johnson & Johnson claims there are many law firms that support the deal but would not name any. The Bankruptcy Judge ordered the lawyer to stop making claims without backing them up.

Many lawyers for the plaintiffs are divided on the settlement. One lawyer for victims that oppose the settlement explained that there are four law firms that represent claimants, and none of the clients of the firms have agreed to support the deal. A different lawyer supports the deal and would recommend it to his clients. He also says that his clients must make the decision themselves.

Johnson & Johnson tried to use a subsidiary it created to resolve talc product cases. It named the company LTL Management. The first bankruptcy attempt was dismissed in April after a US appeals court found that there was not enough financial distress to warrant bankruptcy proceedings. It then filed for a second bankruptcy. Bankruptcy dismissal has been called for by cancer victims’ attorneys and the Justice Department’s bankruptcy watchdog, saying that LTL is abusing bankruptcy law.

Baby powder is made up of crushed talc. The mineral is soft to the touch and can be found near asbestos. When talc is mined, asbestos can be mixed with the talc. Johnson & Johnson knew about the asbestos contaminated talc as early as the 1950s and sold it anyway. Internal documents show that the company tested asbestos in its products, but it covered this up.

After news of multimillion-dollar settlements from lawsuits and asbestos being found in talc-based products, stores stopped selling talc-based baby powder. The container that lead to the stores pulling products from the shelves was part of a 33,000 batch that was voluntarily recalled by the company in October 2019. Forty-three samples were sent to the FDA with nine samples coming back positive for asbestos. One year later, Johnson & Johnson announced the end of sales of talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada but would sell it in other parts of the world. It reversed this decision and now only sells cornstarch-based baby powder. The company still claims its products are not dangerous.

Dietrich Knaugh, “Cancer plaintiffs drill down on J&J’s support for $8.9 billion talc deal” (June 29, 2023). [Link]
T Su, “Johnson & Johnson Reaches Deal for $8.9 Billion Talc Settlement” New York Times (April 4, 2023). [Link]


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