Talcum Powder Lawsuits Drive Johnson & Johnson Supplier to Bankruptcy

Published on February 20, 2019 by Sandy Liebhard

Unable to bear the costs associated with defending thousands of talcum powder lawsuits, Imerys Talc America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week.

A division of French group Imerys SA, Imerys Talc America supplies raw talc to Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer of Baby Powder. Both companies are defendants in more than 11,000 that allege Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based powders caused mesothelioma or ovarian cancer.

What Imerys Talc America Bankruptcy Means for Talcum Powder Lawsuits

According to Reuters, Imerys maintains that the talcum powder lawsuits are “without merit.” However, the prospect of rising settlement and defense costs in the coming years, not to mention the negative publicity generated by the growing litigation, drove the company to file a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in Delaware federal court on February 13th.

“After carefully evaluating all possible options, we determined that pursuing Chapter 11 protection is the best course of action to address our historic talc-related liabilities and position the filing companies for continued growth,” Imerys Talc America said in a statement.

Imerys Talc Vermont and Imerys Talc Canada filed for bankruptcy the same day.

According to Bloomberg.com, the Chapter 11 filing will allow Imerys to set aside a substantial amount of money to resolve current and future talcum powder lawsuits. However, the development is bad news for Johnson & Johnson, as Imerys likely won’t contribute much capital to any future talcum powder settlements.

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Verdicts and Settlements

Imerys Talc America had already settled several talcum powder lawsuits prior to the bankruptcy filing.

Most recently, the company agreed to pay more than $5 million to resolve talc-ovarian cancer claims filed on behalf of 22 women. In August, a Missouri jury hit Johnson & Johnson with a $4.69 million verdict in the same case.

Since 2016, Johnson & Johnson and Imerys have faced over a dozen talcum powder trials in courts throughout the country.  Plaintiffs have won eight cases so far, with verdicts ranging from $4.7 million to $25 million. However, some verdicts were later overturned.

Four juries have found for Johnson & Johnson, while mistrials were declared in three cases.

Last December, Johnson & Johnson agreed to  settle a talcum powder lawsuit for the first time in the litigation’s history. The mesothelioma case would have gone to trial in the notoriously plaintiff-friendly New York City Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL).

More than dozen Johnson & Johnson talcum powder cancer lawsuits are scheduled to go to trial this year. In fact, a California jury is currently hearing a case filed by a woman who claims Baby Powder caused her mesothelioma.

Last December, a Reuters investigation suggested Johnson & Johnson executives knew for decades that its raw-talc and finished talcum powders had tested positive for small amounts of cancer-causing asbestos. However, company officials concealed the test results from regulators and consumers.

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