J&J Reaches $700M Baby Powder Settlement to Resolve Claims Brought By U.S. States

Settlement resolves claims brought by states over deceptive advertising practices, which failed to disclose information about health risks from Baby Powder and other talcum powder products.

As Johnson & Johnson continues to refuse to settle tens of thousands of baby powder lawsuits brought by consumers across the U.S. who have developed ovarian cancer following use of it’s talc-based product, the healthcare giant has agreed to pay a $700 million settlement to resolve claims brought by dozens of U.S. states, over the company’s alleged deceptive marketing practices.

In response to an extensive multi-state investigation into Johsnon & Johnson’s failure to disclose that talcum powder products were contaminated with asbestos particles, which can increase the risk of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, Bloomberg News reports that a tentative settlement agreement has been reached to resolve the claims brought by more than 40 states.

The Baby Powder settlement agreement is intended to resolve all current and future lawsuits that could be brought forth by states alleging the company concealed or failed to disclose evidence that its talcum powder based products could cause cancer.

Multi State Talcum Powder Investigation

The settlement stems from a joint investigation initiated by at least 41 states who collectively examined whether the company was honest in its marketing regarding the safety of its talcum powder products, according to a Johnson & Johnson quarterly filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in May 2020.

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Talcum powder or talc powder may cause women to develop ovarian cancer.

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The investigation represented a coordinated effort by the states to address the wide-scale public health concerns surrounding Johnson & Johnson’s talc based products. Throughout the multi year investigation, states examined the company’s marketing strategies and whether Johnson & Johnson’s practices were in line with consumer protection standards, especially regarding disclosing potential health risks.

While the specific findings of the states’ investigation into Johnson & Johnson’s advertising of talcum powder products have not been publicly disclosed, the $700 million settlement agreement is much higher than the $400 million the manufacturer had initially set aside to resolve U.S. state consumer protection actions.

Baby Powder Cancer Lawsuits

The state settlement marks the latest in a series of potential talcum powder settlements that could be reached with Johnson & Johnson in the coming months and years.

Currently, the manufacturer faces more than 70,000 Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits, each involving similar allegations that users were not adequately warned about the risk of developing ovarian cancer, mesothelioma and other injuries following use of the talc-based products.

Given common questions of fact and law raised in complaints filed throughout the federal court system, the lawsuits were centralized before U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in 2016. However, following Judge Wolfson’s retirement in early 2022, the cases were reassigned to U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp.

Shortly before the first bellwether trial was set to begin, Johnson & Johnson decided to initiate a controversial talcum powder bankruptcy scheme in 2021, as part of an attempt to force any settlement for the cases through the U.S. bankruptcy system. This led to a long delay in the litigation and prevented the federal bellwether cases from going before juries.

However, in January 2023, the Third Circuit appeals court removed Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary from bankruptcy, acknowledging that the company was created for the sole purpose of filing bankruptcy to help shield Johnson & Johnson from large talcum powder lawsuit settlement costs. The controversial bankruptcy tactic delayed all proceedings for nearly two years. However, now that the bankruptcy stay has been lifted, the talcum powder litigation has resumed.

2024 Talcum Powder Lawsuit Settlement Update

In late December, Johnson & Johnson announced that it had tentatively settled approximately 100 talcum powder mesothelioma cases. However, the company continues to face tens of thousands of unresolved ovarian cancer claims, which could expose the company to billions in legal liability.

In the federal court system, lawyers for Johnson & Johnson and consumers diagnosed with ovarian cancer are now preparing a small group of bellwether cases for potential jury trials, which may begin sometime in 2024. According to a pretrial schedule issued in October 2023, the parties will complete depositions of plaintiffs’ expert witnesses by January 22, 2024, and the depositions of the Defendants’ expert witnesses will be completed by April 15, 2024.

Critical motions, including Dispositive and Daubert motions, must be filed by May 6, 2024. Subsequently, one or more cases will be selected to serve for an initial bellwether trial, which has not yet been scheduled.

While the results of these individual trials will not directly impact other cases, their verdicts are expected to greatly influence the potential settlement values that Johnson & Johnson could propose to avoid the need for each individual Baby Powder cancer lawsuit brought by consumers going to trial in the coming years.

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