J&J to Pay $700 Million to Settle Talc Baby Powder Investigation

Legislation & Litigation

Johnson & Johnson’s $700 million deal will resolve a talcum powder investigation a group of 43 State Attorneys Generals launched. J&J is accused of not warning people about potential health risks linked to its talc-based baby powder. 

This latest settlement won’t resolve thousands of other lawsuits that claim the company’s talc-based products cause cancer. In total 50,000 claims have been filed against J&J, the majority of which claim the company’s talc caused ovarian cancer. J&J maintains that its products don’t cause cancer.

“I view this settlement as part of J&J’s overall strategy of clearing the path for a third bankruptcy,” said Daniel Wasserberg, founding partner of the national law firm Meirowitz & Wasserberg, which represents plaintiffs J&J’s talc-based products have injured. “Johnson & Johnson is actively settling mesothelioma claims with certain law firms under confidential terms, however, they are not open to settling ovarian cancer cases at this hour.”

Third Attempt at Bankruptcy Ahead

J&J has unsuccessfully attempted to file for bankruptcy two times to avoid litigation. A judge denied both attempts, finding the company wasn’t in financial distress. 

According to Bloomberg, J&J filed a request in December 2023 with the Texas secretary of state’s office to relocate its subsidiary LTL Management to Austin. The request also seeks to rename it before a third attempt at filing Chapter 11.

Both prior attempts at filing for bankruptcy were made in J&J’s home state of New Jersey, but a Texas law allows a company to assign liability from a mass tort case to a separate entity that can file for bankruptcy. Some legal experts criticize the tactic known as the “Texas Two-Step ” for allowing companies to use bankruptcy court to force settlements. 

Talcum Powder Contamination

Talcum powder can become contaminated with asbestos since both are natural minerals found next to each other in the earth. The contamination can happen during the mining process. Exposure to asbestos is the primary cause of cancers including mesothelioma, laryngeal, lung and ovarian.

A Reuters investigative report in 2018 found that Johnson & Johnson was aware of asbestos contamination in its talc-based products. Multiple tests detected asbestos in the company’s talc between 1971 and the early 2000s. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration was never notified about the findings.

The FDA also found traces of asbestos in a bottle of J&J’s baby powder in 2019. The discovery led to a recall of 33,000 bottles of baby powder. Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based baby powder stopped being sold in the U.S. and Canada in 2020. The company now sells a cornstarch-based product.

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