Product Liability

Johnson & Johnson agrees to pay over $100 million to resolve more than 1,000 talcum powder lawsuits

March 2, 2021

Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay over $100 million to resolve more than 1,000 talcum powder lawsuits that alleged that J&J's talcum powder caused cancer to develop in consumers of the talcum powder.

Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay over $100 million to resolve more than 1,000 lawsuits that alleged the company’s talcum-based baby powder caused cancer to develop within some consumers who used the product. This is the first settlement to be reached in the four-year-old ongoing litigation.

As we previously reported, several court decisions throughout the timeline of the lawsuit have favored the plaintiffs, signaling to us that a settlement might be reached. The agreement, settled on by several law firms, is yet another confirmation that the world’s largest maker of health care products is attempting to limit the exposure they may face by getting ahead of these lawsuits. Even though they reached an agreement with the over 1,000 cases, there still remain over 20,000 unresolved lawsuits.

One clear sign that a potential settlement was on the horizon was the removal of J&J’s signature powder from all stores in the US and Canada, nearly 7 months before the settlement was reached. As one of their most well-known products, removing talcum powder from shelves was a major decision for J&J. But even after this announcement, J&J stated that they still believe in the “safety of our product.” Adding that they “will continue to vigorously defend the product, its safety, and the unfounded allegations against it and the company in the courtroom.”  

This stance was maintained even after the settlement was reached. Kim Montagnino, a senior spokesperson for J&J, stated that “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.” She said “scientific evidence” supports that position and that they will not admit to any intentional or unintentional wrongdoing. “Our talc is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer,” Montagnino said. While they may claim that they care to resolve these cases fairly and that they care about their consumers, the decisions made by J&J are far from altruistic and just prove their concern is ultimately to limit their liability.  

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who specializes in mass-tort cases, said “J&J generally loath to settle lawsuits, so when you see this kind of push, it’s part of a strategy rather than a sign of desperation.” Removing the talcum product from stores creates a deadline to which they can limit any further lawsuits against them. It allows them to better quantify the company’s exposure.

In addition, the company has already begun setting aside money to pay for the defense and settlements of the current lawsuits they face. A security filing showed that J&J “established an accrual primarily for defense costs, and reserves for potential settlement of currently pending mesothelioma cases,” but did not specify how much or which cases the fund was directed towards. A Bloomberg Intelligence report estimated in July that “settling all the outstanding cases could cost J&J as much as $10 Billion.”

While we are excited that some of those affected by J&J’s talcum powder will see some justice, we will continue to fight for those who are still seeking compensation for J&J’s negligence.  One aspect of our fight is keeping our clients, friends, and families informed. Stay tuned for more updates on the ongoing litigation against J&J and other mass-tort cases.

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