In order to resolve claims that BASF hid test results showing the presence of asbestos in talc, the chemical manufacturer has agreed to pay a settlement worth about $72.5 million.
The agreement would resolve a talc class action lawsuit, which claims BASF purposefully lied about tests showing that talc pulled from a Vermont mine owned by the company contained levels of asbestos, which then allegedly led to cases of lung cancer and other ailments. Despite agreeing to the settlement, BASF refused to admit to any wrongdoing.
Notice of the settlement was filed in New Jersey federal court on Thursday, as part of a joint agreement involving BASF and the Cahill, Gordon & Reindel LLP law firm in New York. It is unclear how much each will contribute to the deal, whose total cost once legal fees are included, comes to nearly $100 million.
The settlement could result in payments to thousands of individuals who developed asbestos-related claims filed between March 1984 and March 2011. It involved talc sold from the mine from 1967 to 1983, which was used in a wide range of applications, from auto parts to balloons, according to some claims.
The mine was originally run by Engelhard Corp., which was purchased by BASF in 2006.
Asbestos exposure has been found to increase the risk of lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, which is typically at a very advanced and untreatable stage by the time it is diagnosed.
These risks have been known for about a century, although they did not get widely publicized the mid 1960s. As a result, most modern, first-world countries banned asbestos use in its entirety decades ago. But not the United States.
While most uses were banned in this country, there is still about 750 metric tons of asbestos used in the U.S. every year.
Baby Powder Lawsuits
Johnson & Johnson currently faces about 20,000 similar Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits pending in courts nationwide, each raising similar claims the manufacturer failed to warn that their talc-based products contained traces asbestos that increase the risk of cancer.
While most of the claims involve women diagnosed with ovarian cancer following years of talcum powder use, a smaller number involve individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is a rare and particularly deadly form of cancer that is only known to occur as a result of asbestos exposure.
The company also currently faces a criminal probe into what it knew about asbestos being in its talcum powder products and when it knew of the risk.
Most of the U.S. litigation is currently pending in the federal court system, where a U.S. District Judge is currently evaluating whether expert witness testimony proposed by plaintiffs is sufficiently reliable to permit the cases to proceed to trial.
On May 19 Johnson & Johnson announced it will no longer sell Johnson’s Baby Powder products in North America.