Johnson & Johnson has reached a deal in the long-running lawsuit against its talc-based products. Thousands of people have sued the company over the past decade, claiming the products — including its iconic baby powder — caused cancer.
As reported by The New York Times, the company will pay out $8.9 billion over 25 years to settle the lawsuits, a much higher settlement than the brand’s original $2 billion offer.
The settlement hinges on approval of a subsidiary created by the company, LTL Management, which has re-filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the purpose of settling and paying out the lawsuits; this subsidiary must be approved by a bankruptcy court and by the claimants themselves before cases can be resolved and paid out. According to a press release from Johnson & Johnson, “LTL also has secured commitments from over 60,000 current claimants to support a global resolution on these terms.” Lawyers for the plaintiffs told the Times that this was a “landmark” achievement in the decades-long battle, saying the settlement was a “significant victory for the tens of thousands of women suffering from gynecological cancers caused by J.&J.’s talc-based products.”
The talc lawsuits have been going on for over a decade, with plaintiffs claiming the high concentration of talc in Johnson & Johnson products like baby powder has led to ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. (Some studies have linked talc to ovarian cancer.) In 2016, a Missouri court ruled that the company pay $72 million to the family of one woman who used Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Johnson & Johnson’s Shower to Shower Absorbent Body Powder for 35 years and died of ovarian cancer, and in 2018, they were ordered to pay a record-breaking $4.69 billion to 22 women who claimed the talc products contained asbestos that caused their ovarian cancer.
In 2018, an investigative report from Reuters revealed that some at Johnson & Johnson were aware that its talc tested positive for asbestos, though the company denied the report. “The Reuters article is one-sided, false, and inflammatory,” the company shared in a statement. “Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is safe and asbestos-free. Studies of more than 100,000 men and women show that talc does not cause cancer or asbestos-related disease. Thousands of independent tests by regulators and the world’s leading labs prove our baby powder has never contained asbestos.” In 2020, Johnson & Johnson announced that it would no longer sell the talc baby powder in North America, though they have continually reiterated that their products are safe.
“The Company continues to believe that these claims are specious and lack scientific merit,” Erik Haas, Worldwide Vice President of Litigation, Johnson & Johnson said in a statement. “However, as the Bankruptcy Court recognized, resolving these cases in the tort system would take decades and impose significant costs on LTL and the system, with most claimants never receiving any compensation. 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.”
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