Updated May 1st, 2024 at 16:11 IST

Johnson & Johnson proposes $6.475 billion settlement for talc cancer lawsuits

The courts had rejected J&J's efforts to resolve litigation through bankruptcy of its subsidiary, LTL Management, created to handle talc-related liabilities.

Reported by: Business Desk
Johnson & Johnson talc lawsuit settlement | Image:Wikimedia Commons
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Johnson & Johnson talc: Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is pushing forward with a proposed settlement worth $6.475 billion to resolve tens of thousands of lawsuits accusing its talc-based products, including baby powder, of containing asbestos and causing ovarian cancer, the company announced on Wednesday.

The settlement, subject to a three-month voting period, aims to address all current and future claims related to ovarian cancer. The majority of talc-related lawsuits against J&J—approximately 54,000 cases consolidated in a New Jersey federal court—pertain to ovarian cancer allegations.

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Despite two previous attempts, the courts had rejected J&J's efforts to resolve the litigation through the bankruptcy of its subsidiary, LTL Management, created to handle talc-related liabilities.

Asserting that its products are asbestos-free and do not cause cancer, J&J expressed confidence in achieving the 75 per cent support threshold required for the bankruptcy settlement. This threshold would halt future litigation and prevent individuals from opting out to pursue separate lawsuits.

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The proposed settlement follows J&J's prior agreements with about 95 per cent of individuals who sued the company for developing mesothelioma—a cancer linked to asbestos—and settlements with US states alleging failure to warn consumers about talc product dangers.

While the exact value of mesothelioma settlements remains undisclosed, J&J recorded an additional charge of $2.7 billion in the first quarter of 2024 to account for recent talc-related settlements.

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In its previous bankruptcy filing, LTL proposed an $8.9 billion deal covering mesothelioma lawsuits, consumer protection actions by states, and ovarian cancer claims—addressed separately in the current settlement.

Although talc litigation was paused from 2021 to 2023 due to bankruptcy filings, trials resumed following a federal judge's decision to dismiss the latest case in July 2023.

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In March, J&J received an opportunity to challenge scientific evidence linking talc to ovarian cancer in the New Jersey federal court. The judge called for a fresh review in light of legal changes and new scientific evidence, giving J&J until late July to present new arguments.

Amid the ongoing litigation, J&J remains committed to defending itself while seeking support for the settlement. Despite prevailing in 95 per cent of ovarian cases tried to date, the company faced substantial verdicts, including a $2.12 billion award in favor of 22 women alleging ovarian cancer due to J&J talc asbestos contamination. In a recent mesothelioma case, J&J was ordered to pay $45 million, while winning an ovarian cancer lawsuit.

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(With Reuters inputs.)

 

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Published May 1st, 2024 at 16:11 IST