Johnson & Johnson has lost an initial legal battle to stop product liability lawsuits from claiming that the company’s talc baby powder has harmed tens of thousands of women.
According to a Bloomberg News report, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Craig Whitley agreed with lawyers representing more than 38,000 people who have sued J&J over claims that one of the company’s top-selling products caused cancer and other health problems. The ruling allows legal proceedings to continue while the company deals with bankruptcy proceedings. But this is just the beginning of what is likely to be a lengthy court battle.
What the Ruling Means
The judge essentially threw out J&J’s request for a temporary pause in the talc cancer cases. However, he said he would consider giving J&J a longer-term shield early next month when the parties return for a hearing in which the company may be able to present more evidence to support its position. In last week’s hearing in North Carolina, J&J was not able to find key documents that could show that a corporate restructuring in 1978 moved responsibility for older talc claims away from the parent.
J&J recently set up a new unit responsible for paying off the claims arising from J&J talc products, and then put that entity into bankruptcy. Earlier this year, J&J paid $2.5 billion to about 20 women who blamed the company’s baby powder for causing their ovarian cancer. Both the Missouri Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn that verdict.
The judge in North Carolina agreed to halt lawsuits involving the bankrupt entity because it would qualify automatically under Chapter 11 rules. But, he said that will not stop cases, some of which are nearing a jury verdict, against J&J, the parent company, whose stock is currently valued at $431 billion.
Justice for Victims
Despite a number of studies that have shown a link between talc products and cancer, Johnson & Johnson has doubled down and maintained that its powder products are safe for consumer use. In fact, they have aggressively marketed these products to women over the years, encouraging them to use them for feminine hygiene. This is a company that must be held for marketing these dangerous talcum powder products to women in spite of having known that they pose a risk for ovarian cancer.
We hope the tens of thousands of women and families that have filed these lawsuits get their day in court. Our product defect law firm will continue to vigorously fight for the rights of these victims and their families until justice is served.