Johnson & Johnson, is facing 25,000 talcum powder lawsuits filed by women who claim J&J’s Baby Powder contained asbestos that caused their cancers.
The company announced Monday it set aside $3.9 billion in related costs, litigation and settlements.
A securities filing February 22, represents twice the amount the New Jersey based company had planned to set aside for talc verdicts.
The healthcare giant has lost millions in jury trials after jurors listened to how J&J knew from the early 1970’s that its raw talc sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos. Talc is mined from the same areas as asbestos mines. The company insists its powder doesnt contain talc but it pulled the product off store shelves in the US and Canada last year.
In November, a Brooklyn couple was awarded $120 million after they blamed her cancer on asbestos exposure. Women have for decades used baby powder in their underwear to stay dry.
Three years ago, a $4.7 billion verdict for 20 Missouri women was cut to $2.1 billion by a Missouri court of appeals. JNJ appealed by the Missouri Supreme Court denied hearing the appeal. Attorney Mark Lanier brought that verdict, he tells Bloomberg. “Now J&J wants a get out of jail free card. A responsible company would pay their debts.”
Currently, the company says there are 25,000 lawsuits facing J&J over its defective asbestos-laced talcum powder used for feminine hygiene. That is a sharp jump over cases filed a year ago.
Meanwhile, JNJ is appealing the Missouri verdict to the U.S. Supreme Court claiming the verdict was excessive. [Case in Jefferson City, Missouri Ingham v. J&J, No. SC98674. Mo Appeal Ingham v Johnson & Johnson et al, No. ED 207476]
Damages were awarded when the jury heard how J&J failed to make known that asbestos was found in their talc products in the early 1970s.
Lawsuits have been filed in state courts in Missouri, New Jersey, and California as well as suits filed outside the U.S. the majority are pending in federal court in multidistrict litigation in the district of New Jersey. Discovery has begun under a court directive limiting the theories and testing methods for certain plaintiff expert witnesses. The court denied plaintiffs’ attempts to limit the scope of company witnesses.
In February 2019, J&J’s talc supplier, Imerys Talc America, Inc. and two affiliates filed a voluntary chapter 11 petition to reorganize in bankruptcy court.
Besides opioid litigation, pelvic mesh cases that are lingering in multidistrict litigation and in various state courts, the drug Elmiron and its link to vision problems, and hernia mesh litigation; the 10-k document calls the complaints and litigation the “normal course of business.”
States are getting involved too.
In June 2014, the Mississippi AG fined a complaint against J&J alleging the defendants violated the Mississippi consumer Protection Act by failing to disclose alleged health risks associated with Jonson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower. Oral argument was held in February 2021.
In January 2020, New Mexico filed a consumer protection case alleging JNJ deceptively marketed and sold its talcum powder by making misrepresentations about the safety of the products and the presence of carcinogens including asbestos.
JNJ then filed a motion for partial judgment on the pleadings in December 2020.
So far, 41 states have begun a joint investigation into the company’s marketing of its talcum products. No claims have been asserted against JNJ. Several states have requested documents by issuing Civil Investigative Demands.
In February 2018, shareholders filed a securities class action in US District Court in New Jersey alleging that J&J violated securities laws by failing to disclose asbestos contamination in body powders causing shareholders to suffer losses. The plaintiff is seeking damages. In December, the court denied a move to dismiss the complaint and discovery is underway. P. 87
In June 2019, a shareholder filed a complaint in New Jersey state court for books and records. JNJ filed a cross motion to dismiss.
In October 2019, December 2019, and January 2020, four shareholders alleged the healthcare giant knew for more than 40 years that its talc contained cancer-causing asbestos. Filing four separate derivative lawsuits against J&J and its current directors and certain officers the suit alleges a breach of fiduciary duties which has resulted in losses and damage due to the alleged breaches.
The four cases have now been consolidated into Johnson & Johnson Talc Stockholder Derivative Litigation.