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Johnson & Johnson faces new class action lawsuit on behalf of talc users

  • A new class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson seeks damages and medical oversight on behalf of women who have been diagnosed with or may develop cancer due to their use of the company’s Baby Powder and other talc products.
  • Johnson & Johnson maintains its talc is safe, asbestos-free and does not cause cancer, and plaintiffs’ lawyers are pushing new lawsuits to block the company’s settlement offer so they can collect more fees.
  • Both the settlement and the new class action lawsuit concern claims that talc causes ovarian and other gynecological cancers, which make up the bulk of the litigation. A smaller number of lawsuits have been brought by people with mesothelioma, but most of those have been settled.

Johnson & Johnson is facing a new class action lawsuit seeking damages and medical oversight on behalf of women who have been diagnosed with or may develop cancer as a result of using the company’s Baby Powder and other talc products.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court in New Jersey, is the first on behalf of talc users to seek regular testing, or medical surveillance, to detect cancer early. The proposed class action could include thousands of women, but does not include the more than 61,000 people who have already filed personal injury lawsuits alleging that Johnson & Johnson talc contains cancer-causing asbestos.

J&J claims its talc is safe, asbestos-free and does not cause cancer.

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The law firms handling the new litigation are fighting a proposal by J&J to settle nearly all talc claims against the company through bankruptcy for $6.48 billion. The firms are also filing a separate class action lawsuit seeking a court injunction to block the bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy plan requires the support of 75 percent of taluc creditors and the voting period is three months, ending on July 26.

Eric Haas, Johnson & Johnson’s global vice president for litigation, said in a statement that plaintiffs’ lawyers filed Monday’s “frivolous” lawsuit to put their own interests ahead of their customers’ and to thwart the bankruptcy plan, which would allow them to collect higher fees outside of bankruptcy proceedings.

Bottles of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder line the shelves of a New York drugstore on October 15, 2015, despite a newly proposed class action lawsuit on behalf of women who have been diagnosed with cancer or may develop it in the future. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson/File Photo/Reuters)

“The plaintiff companies should stop their stonewalling and let their customers decide for themselves whether or not to accept the pending proposals,” he said.

Lawyers opposed to the deal denied they were motivated by increased legal fees and said the bankruptcy proposal would not adequately compensate their clients.

Chris Tisci, one of the lawyers filing the new lawsuit, said in a statement that the medical oversight is necessary because the bankruptcy plan’s “inadequate funds” “do not realistically address the potentially developing needs of women.” Ovarian cancer “Because I’ve used baby powder in the past, it could put me at risk for it in the future.”

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Both the settlement and the new class action lawsuit concern claims that talc causes ovarian and other gynecological cancers, which make up the bulk of the litigation. A smaller number of lawsuits have been brought by people with mesothelioma, but most of those have been settled.

J&J has already tried twice to resolve current and future talc claims through bankruptcy but has failed.

The legal strategy, known as Texas Two-Step, would involve setting up a subsidiary to absorb the company’s talc debt and then having that subsidiary resolve the lawsuits by declaring bankruptcy. Previous efforts have failed because courts determined the new subsidiary did not have a “financial distress” that would justify bankruptcy.

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