Imerys SA, a French-based processor of minerals for industrial processes, such as crushing talc into a fine powder for use in personal care products and cosmetics, is trying to pay its way out of 14,650 individual talc powder cancer lawsuits through a bankruptcy payment plan.
The company faces the lawsuits for its role in supplying Johnson and Johnson with talc, some of which was contaminated with the carcinogenic mineral, asbestos. Plaintiffs allege that due to long-term use of products with contaminated talc, they developed mesothelioma, ovarian cancer or other debilitating health conditions.
Johnson & Johnson (henceforth: J & J) was not pleased with the announcement by Imerys to seek court permission to compensate cancer victims through a creditor-approved bankruptcy repayment plan.
In 2019, Imerys was placed in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Last year, the company was sold for over $220 million. J & J is unhappy with Imerys’ plan because the consumer good/medical device/pharmaceutical multinational denies liability for its iconic talc baby powder, of which the company announced in May 2020 that it was discontinuing sales in North America. By using the bankruptcy payment plan, Imerys is making it easier for cancer victims to sue J & J, attorney for J & J believe.
According to a financial investor website, Imerys Talc is putting sales proceeds, insurance policies and funds from settlements into a trust that will pay claims for cancer.
However, according to court papers, ovarian cancer victims will only collect approximately 5% of the value that has been assigned to their claim. And for this reason, J & J says that they will be forced to pay the rest of the compensation.
In a court hearing, an attorney for J & J said that Imerys bankruptcy payment plan functions “essentially [as a] stolen blank check from the purse of J&J.”
J & J isn’t the only entity opposed to Imerys’ plan. ADVFN.com says insurers and splinter groups of cancer victims also are objecting to the chapter 11 plan voting materials, saying the papers have insufficient detail to allow those affected by it to evaluate what it does to their rights.
UPDATE: On January 15, Imerys agreed to make changes to its Chapter 11 plan documents, telling a judge that it would add information about a $130 million settlement with its former owner, Cyprus Mines, over asbestos lawsuits. Law360.com, the court heard arguments from various parties to the case about the need for additional disclosures in plan documents before they were sent to creditors for the solicitation of votes on the plan.