J&J agrees to pay $700M to settle talc probes in 42 states

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By Dan Sears

Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday said it had reached a tentative settlement to resolve probes by states into whether it misled consumers about the safety of its talc products, which thousands of lawsuits claim can cause cancer.

The deal includes 42 states and Washington, DC. The company tentatively agreed to pay about $700 million to settle the states’ claims, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Consistent with the plan we outlined last year, the company continues to pursue several paths to achieve a comprehensive and final resolution of the talc litigation,” Erik Haas, J&J’s worldwide vice president of litigation, said in a statement.

The settlement does not extend to private plaintiffs’ cases against the company, some of which are expected to go to trial later this year.

J&J has maintained that its now-discontinued talc products are safe and do not cause cancer. It previously set aside $400 million to resolve state claims.

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The company, which reported fourth-quarter results on Tuesday, still faces more than 50,000 lawsuits over talc, most by women with ovarian cancer.


Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder
J&J has maintained that its now-discontinued talc products are safe and do not cause cancer. REUTERS

A minority of the cases involve people with mesothelioma, a type of cancer linked to asbestos.

It recently settled some of the mesothelioma cases for an undisclosed amount but has maintained that its talc did not contain asbestos.

The company has twice tried to resolve the cases by placing its talc liabilities into bankruptcy, but both attempts were rebuffed by courts.

In the latest failed bankruptcy attempt, the company had proposed to pay $8.9 billion to talc claimants.

J&J said last year that it was planning a third bankruptcy filing.


Johnson & Johnson campus in Irvine, Calif.
The company has twice tried to resolve the cases by placing its talc liabilities into bankruptcy, but both attempts were rebuffed by courts. AFP via Getty Images

The settlement with the states could make that easier, as some states had previously argued that they, unlike private plaintiffs, can continue pursuing claims while a bankruptcy is pending.

Courts have not resolved that issue.

Trials in the talc cases have had a mixed record, with major plaintiff wins including a $2.1 billion judgment in 2020 awarded to 22 women with ovarian cancer.

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A New Jersey appeals court in October threw out a $223.8 million verdict against the company, finding the testimony of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses unsound.

The company stopped selling talc-based baby powder in favor of cornstarch-based products, citing an increase in lawsuits and “misinformation” about the talc product’s safety.

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