Legislation and litigation
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Prosecuting attorneys and congressional leaders have renewed pressure against Johnson & Johnson and its allegedly toxic talc-based powder products, questioning motives and demanding answers, according to various media outlets.
A panel of attorneys filed a restraining order in United States District Court in Wilmington, Delaware, July 27, hoping to prevent J&J’s potential plan to offload its talc obligations on a new subsidiary that would later file for bankruptcy.
The next day, the US House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee delivered a letter to the CEO of J&J requesting information about any company’s plans to declare bankruptcy through a subsidiary.
In a separate case, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump filed a lawsuit in the New Jersey Supreme Court alleging that Johnson & Johnson marketed baby powder containing talc specifically to black women, despite knowing its risks.
Opposition to J&J’s potential bankruptcy plan
The pharmaceutical giant is currently facing nearly 30,000 lawsuits in the United States, most of them blaming asbestos-contaminated talc products for causing ovarian cancer. Few of the lawsuits involve malignant mesothelioma, a rare cancer that results almost exclusively from exposure to asbestos.
J&J has continued to insist that its products are safe to use and has vigorously fought court cases and judgments.
“We stand behind the safety of our products as decades of independent scientific testing have confirmed that our talcum powder is safe and does not cause cancer,” a J&J spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal.
A bankruptcy plan through a subsidiary, which J&J declined to confirm, could dramatically change its legal status, potentially saving the company billions of dollars.
This controversial legal strategy will open the way for J&J to settle thousands of current and future legal cases and avoid jury trials.
Bankruptcy strategies have been used in the past by many companies facing a large number of asbestos-related claims, including Koch Industries Inc’s Georgia Pacific Limited. in 2017.
If used, the move could potentially lead to lengthy bankruptcy proceedings and reduce compensation for plaintiffs. Much will depend on how the affiliate is financed.
The subsequent response from the committee representing talc injury claimants and the House letter came as no surprise. A House subcommittee has been listening to the claimants since 2019 when it first held hearings on the alleged carcinogens in baby powder.
“We seek to find out how those who have experienced damage from your product may be affected by your reported plan [on bankruptcy]Congressman Raja Krishnamurthy, chair of the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Oversight and Reform, wrote in the letter to Johnson & Johnson.
Women’s group claims racial bias in Johnson & Johnson marketing
Crump filed the lawsuit against J&J on behalf of the National Council of Negro Women, a non-profit organization that advocates for and empowers women of African descent.
At a press conference, the deposition of several women who had lost family members to ovarian cancer was announced. In filing the lawsuit, the organization claimed that some of its members have used Johnson’s Baby Powder for years and now have ovarian cancer.
“Internal documents show that J&J targeted advertisements for black women, knowing that black women are more likely to use and regularly use powder products,” the complaint reads. However, these talcum powder products were not safe.
J&J responded to the file with a statement emailed to various media outlets, vigorously defending the safety of its product and any suggestion of targeting black women.
“The accusations against our company are false, and the notion that our company will deliberately and systematically target a community with malicious intent is unreasonable and unreasonable,” the statement said. “Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, and our campaigns are multicultural and inclusive.”
Talc studies and judgments mixed
The issue of talc products contaminated with asbestos stems from where the two naturally occurring minerals are located near the Earth’s surface. They are often mined in close proximity, which is of serious concern.
The test of asbestos in talc has been widely disputed. Some studies have shown no clear link between talc use and ovarian cancer. Others have shown opposite results.
The jury’s rulings were also contradictory. Some have sided with J&J. Others have granted the plaintiffs large settlements.
Earlier this year, the US Supreme Court rejected a request by J&J to consider rescinding a $2.1 billion award for 22 women it blamed on asbestos-contaminated talc for causing ovarian cancer.
J&J continues to cite a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2020 that found no “statistically significant association” between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer risk.
However, J&J also announced that same year that it would stop selling talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada, citing low consumer demand and “misinformation” about the safety of its product.
According to 2021 regulatory filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Johnson & Johnson set aside $3.9 billion for future talc-related litigation.
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