According to Bloomberg News, Johnson & Johnson (J & J) will pay $100 million to settle 1,000 lawsuits it faces over allegations that batches of its talc-based baby powder contain cancer-causing asbestos.
Women and their families who have sued J & J allege that due to several years of using talcum powder in the genital area caused them to develop ovarian cancer, or mesothelioma, which can result when asbestos-tainted talc is repeatedly inhaled.
Similar to Bayer AG’s attempts to put an end to Monsanto Roundup Weed Killer lawsuits, J & J seems to be trying to get ahead of baby powder litigation.
The legal floodgates opened after reports by both the New York Times and Reuters revealed internal J & J emails and memos that prove J & J knew for decades that its talc could be laced with asbestos.
Even after the $100 million is paid to settle the 1,000 lawsuits, J & J will still be on the hook for approximately 20,000 more talc lawsuits.
Talc baby powder lawsuits have been ongoing for over four years; this marks the first time J & J, the largest producer of consumer health products, has offered to settle. Were J & J to settle all outstanding lawsuits, Bloomberg Intelligence estimates it would cost the company the same amount as Bayer has recently set aside to pay the bulk of over 100,000 Roundup lawsuits: $10 billion.
Despite the settlement, J & J maintains that talc powder is safe and not tainted with asbestos. Kim Montagnino, a J&J spokeswoman, told Bloomberg: “In certain circumstances, we do choose to settle lawsuits, which is done without an admission of liability and in no way changes our position regarding the safety of our products.”
Forbes reports that allegedly, J & J CEO Alex Gorsky said, “We unequivocally believe that our talc and our baby powder does not contain asbestos,” a mere 13 days before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claimed to have found trace levels of asbestos in a bottle of the product in October, 2019. That same month, J & J voluntarily recalled a batch (over 30,000 bottles) of talc baby powder after trace amounts of asbestos were found.
Then, in May 2020, J & J voluntarily discontinued new sales of its talcum baby powder in North America. Dozens of non-profits and other organizations are calling on the company to pull the item from stores worldwide.
According to InsuranceJournal.com, approximately 1,000 ovarian cancer cases filed in New Jersey were reinstated by an appeals court. Neither the Bloomberg report nor the Forbes article mentions if the 1,000 lawsuits J & J has agreed to settle represent the reinstated New Jersey-based lawsuits.
J & J has been ordered to pay hefty damages to a select group of talc powder plaintiffs, including a $4.7 billion award to 22 women (the award was later ordered reduced to $2.1 billion). In August, J & J asked the Missouri Supreme Court to review the case.