A verdict compels Johnson & Johnson to compensate a Californian man with $18.8 million, affirming his assertion that the firm’s talcum powders led to his cancer.
The multinational corporation, Johnson & Johnson, faces a judicial directive to compensate a Californian man, suffering from cancer, an amount of $18.8 million. He alleges that his disease is a direct consequence of the usage of the company’s talcum-based powders. After an almost two-year hiatus, this trial represents the first legal confrontation over accusations that J&J concealed health hazards associated with its flagship baby powder product.
In an Oakland state courtroom, the jury reached the consensus that J&J’s baby powder was instrumental in precipitating mesothelioma, a form of cancer attributed to asbestos exposure, in Anthony Hernandez Valadez. Notwithstanding a court decree imposing a blanket suspension on all litigations, Valadez’s case was granted an exception to proceed due to his deteriorating health, a result of J&J’s attempt to segregate its talc liability through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.
J&J has indicated their intention to challenge the verdict, contending that the judge’s “erroneous” rulings barred them from introducing pivotal evidence to the jury, proving their baby powder didn’t cause Valadez’s unique mesothelioma. Erik Haas, the Global Vice President of Litigation at J&J, stated that independent scientific assessments spanning decades have verified the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder. “Without the benefit of that evidence, the verdict is irreconcilable with the decades of independent scientific evaluations confirming Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos and does not cause cancer,” Haas asserted. He further elaborated that the ongoing bankruptcy proceedings will remain unaffected by the verdict as the award amount won’t be disbursed.
The $18.8 million compensation awarded to Valadez could pose challenges to J&J’s attempts to persuade other talc victims to agree to an $8.9 billion settlement proposed within the bankruptcy case filed by its LTL Management division. This settlement was designed to accommodate all current and prospective lawsuits, alleging that J&J deliberately sold asbestos-containing talc-based baby powder.
In the view of Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, specializing in mass torts, this verdict could potentially influence other plaintiffs to reject the settlement, as they could perceive a higher possibility of obtaining compensation through individual trials. This could pose a stumbling block to J&J’s settlement discussions.
In response to declining sales, Johnson & Johnson withdrew its talc-based powders from the markets of the US and Canada in 2020, replacing them with a version based on corn-starch. The company is dedicated to phasing out all baby powders containing talcum powder from the international market by the close of this year.
Johnson & Johnson Allocates Close to $9B for Talc-Related Lawsuit Settlements
J&J is setting aside almost $9 billion for claims that its talcum-based baby powder led to cancer, which significantly increases the previously reserved amount for potential liabilities.
Johnson & Johnson plans to reserve close to $9 billion to address accusations that its talcum baby powder induced cancer. This value is over four times the amount that the company had originally designated to handle potential liabilities.
Under a new proposal revealed on Tuesday, a subsidiary of J&J plans to reapply for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and to seek judicial consent for a plan resulting in one of the most substantial product-liability settlements in American history.
J&J aims to transfer $8.9 billion to its subsidiary, LTL Management, to be disbursed over the coming 25 years. This revised figure represents a significant increase from the $2 billion initially allocated by the company, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in October 2021.
This updated amount receives support from over 60,000 parties that have lodged lawsuits alleging injuries from J&J’s talcum powder, as stated by the company.
As part of the proposed settlement, J&J does not acknowledge any guilt. A company executive, in a statement on Tuesday, emphasized that the claims “are specious and lack scientific merit.”
However, Erik Haas, J&J’s worldwide vice-president of litigation, noted that contesting these lawsuits in court would be a lengthy and costly process.
Plaintiffs have sued J&J, alleging that its talcum powder caused them to contract ovarian cancer through feminine hygiene usage, or mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the lungs and other organs.
A Reuters investigation in December 2018 disclosed that J&J was aware for many years of test results revealing its talc occasionally contained carcinogenic asbestos. Despite this, the company did not share this information with regulatory bodies or the public. J&J maintains that its baby powder and other talc products are safe, do not cause cancer, and are free from asbestos.
These allegations played a role in the decline of J&J’s baby powder sales. Consequently, last year, J&J made a public announcement of its plans to discontinue the sales of the product globally.
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