Cyprus Mines and Ex-J&J Talc Supplier Imerys Create $862M Trust

Legislation & Litigation

Imerys Talc America, Inc. and the company’s former owner, Cyprus Mines Corporation, will create a collective $862 million dollar trust. The goal is for the trust to settle personal injury claims alleging their asbestos-contaminated talc caused plaintiffs’ cancer. 

This comes after both groups filed reorganization plans and disclosure statements on January 31, 2024 in The U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. Both companies filed for bankruptcy protection in hopes of continuing business through a reorganization plan.

Facing more than 14,600 lawsuits, Imerys filed for bankruptcy in 2019. The majority of the lawsuits against the multinational company allege its talc was contaminated with asbestos, causing mesothelioma, ovarian cancer and other serious health complications. 

Cyprus Mines filed for Chapter 11 in February 2021. Cyprus Mines’ case is being administered as “related to” the Imerys bankruptcy case. This is because the company filed its Chapter 11 petition as a condition to a global settlement of talc lawsuits with Imerys and its insurers.

Imerys spokespeople say: “There will be substantially more assets available to resolve talc personal injury claims under the plan than would be the case if there were a chapter 7 liquidation.” 

A hearing is scheduled for March 14, 2024. Approval of its disclosure statements will be considered.

Johnson & Johnson Connection

Imerys is a leading supplier, responsible for around 15% of the world’s talc. The company is a former talc supplier for Johnson & Johnson. It’s a recurring asbestos defendant alongside J&J. 

Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products used Imerys-supplied talcum powder. The company currently faces around 51,000 cancer lawsuits. 

J&J has lost a number of multimillion-dollar lawsuits. Plaintiffs in the cases claim talc in its products was contaminated with asbestos, causing mesothelioma and ovarian cancer

In April 2023, J&J proposed its own $8.9 billion trust fund to settle its talc lawsuits. The company is now considering a third attempt at filing for bankruptcy protection after the courts denied its first 2 attempts. 

Court documents show J&J was aware its popular Johnson’s Baby Powder product was contaminated with asbestos in the 1950s. The company stopped selling talc products in 2023. Its baby powder is now cornstarch-based.

Asbestos & Talcum Powder

Asbestos and talc are naturally occurring minerals found close together in the earth. During the mining process, talc can become contaminated with asbestos. 

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, considers asbestos-contaminated talc carcinogenic to humans. IARC notes talc contaminated with asbestos can cause mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses like asbestosis

Mesothelioma typically has a long latency period of 20 to 60 years. So those exposed to the toxic mineral may not present with symptoms for decades.Talc deposits usually contain tremolite or anthophyllite asbestos, which are the most toxic types. Even pure, uncontaminated talc may lead to health problems. Talc dust can irritate the respiratory system and can cause lung problems, coughs, chest pain, shortness of breath and death.

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