According to NASDAQ.com, Johnson & Johnson (J & J) disclosed in a regulatory filing that it has set aside $3.9 billion for litigation expenses. Significantly higher than the $400 million the company set aside to resolve lawsuits and settlements in 2019, the money will primarily cover talc cancer cases, which includes the June 2020 decision by a Missouri Appeals Court that confirmed a lower court’s decision in 2018 to award damages of $4.7 billion to 22 women, who alleged that they developed ovarian cancer because of asbestos-tainted J & J talc baby powder.
The Missouri Appeals Court reduced the $4.7 billion award to slightly over $2 billion. In November 2020, the Missouri Supreme Court refused to consider J & J’s request to review the case and reduce the verdict. J & J will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out the award.
However, as FiercePharma.com points out, according to U.S. government figures, of the 7,000 cases the U.S. Supreme Court is asked to review each year, the high court takes only up 100 to 150 of them. Thus, it seems like a safer bet for J & J to set aside the $2 billion in case the Court refuses to take up the case.
In comparison to the $2 billion verdict, $100 million seems like peanuts. That’s the amount that J & J announced back in October 2020 for which it would settle 1,000 talc baby powder cancer lawsuits. Despite the settlement, as of January 3rd, J & J still faced approximately 25,000 additional talc lawsuits.
J & J may also have to pay for revived talc and mesothelioma cases as well as state opiate lawsuits, such as the one filed by Oklahoma, which is seeking $9 billion in damages to cover costs associated with combating the opioid epidemic.
An investigation by Reuters in December 2018 revealed that for decades, J & J was aware of the risk of asbestos contamination in talc powder. In May 2020, J & J announced talc baby powder would be discontinued in North America. Despite the lawsuits and the Reuters investigation, J & J has continuously maintained that its talc products are safe. This despite the fact that the company recalled 33,000 bottles of talc baby powder in October 2019.
The majority of talc lawsuits have been filed in California, Missouri and New Jersey, the latter of which is home to consolidated federal cases known as multidistrict litigation (MDL).
To read J & J’s SEC filing, click here.