J&J to Pay $700M to Resolve Talcum Powder Investigations By States’ Attorneys General

Talcum powder settlement with state governments still leaves about 60,000 lawsuits pending against Johnson & Johnson, involving claims brought by users who developed ovarian cancer and other injuries

Johnson & Johnson has reached a $700 million settlement agreement with 43 different state governments, to resolve allegations that the company misled consumers about the safety of its talcum powder products and the presence of asbestos particles in Johnson’s Baby Powder.  However, the deal still leaves more than 60,000 talcum powder lawsuits brought by women diagnosed with ovarian cancer and other injuries.

Although Johnson’s Baby Powder has been marketed for decades as a safe product for use among both infants and adults, in recent years it has been discovered that the talcum powder may contain traces of asbestos from the raw ingredients, which can increase the risk of cancer and other serious injuries.

Following the discovery, a multistate investigation was launched by Attorneys General from Florida, Texas, North Carolina and a number of other states, looking into Johnson & Johnson’s talc marketing practices and whether it sold Johnson’s Baby Powder contaminated with asbestos. The company faced accusations that it knowingly sold toxic talcum powder products, falsely marketing them as safe, while failing to warn the public about the potential asbestos and cancer risks.

This week, Johnson & Johnson agreed to consent judgment (PDF) to end the investigations, which will require combined payments of $700 million to the state governments. However, the agreement is pending approval by a federal judge.

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

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Florida State Attorney General Ashley Moody announced the consent judgment in a press release on June 11, noting that Johnson & Johnson halted Baby Powder sales in the U.S. when the state investigation began.

“This is a major advancement for consumer product safety, as Johnson & Johnson has stopped the manufacturing and marketing of products containing talc powder—which may be linked to serious health issues, including cancer,” said Moody, who led the investigation.

Moody notes that Johnson & Johnson has recently also halted the sale of talc-based Baby Powder globally.

On top of the $700 million payment, including $48 million to Florida, the consent judgment also includes a number of other provisions to which Johnson & Johnson must adhere. The company has agreed to not resume manufacturing, marketing, sale or distribution of cosmetic powder products that contain talc. It has also agreed to permanently stop the manufacture, marketing, sale, and promotion of those types of products in the U.S. through any third party.

Talcum Powder Injury Lawsuits

The settlement does not resolve any of the individual talcum powder injury lawsuits filed against the manufacturer, however. In addition to claims of false marketing and failure to warn filed by the states, the company faces about 60,000 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.

The company has made two attempts at using the bankruptcy system to resolve the litigation. However, federal judges rejected both efforts, noting that Johnson & Johnson faced no real financial distress and has sufficient assets to settle the claims.

In May 2024, Johnson & Johnson proposed a third bankruptcy attempt, including a $6.5 billion settlement to resolve all current and future Baby Powder lawsuits involving women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which makes up the bulk of litigation the company currently faces. However, plaintiffs’ lawyers have roundly rejected the effort, indicating that the amount of the settlement is insufficient to compensate women who relied on the safety of Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products.

While some claims have been filed in state courts, the bulk of the litigation is currently consolidated in the federal court system, where complaints filed by women nationwide have been centralized as part of a talcum powder multidistrict litigation (MDL) since 2016.

Unless Johnson & Johnson is able to force the claims into the U.S. bankruptcy court system, it is expected that the federal judge presiding over the litigation will soon schedule a series of hearings to evaluate the sufficiency of plaintiffs’ expert witness testimony linking talcum powder and ovarian cancer, then set a series of cases for bellwether trials.

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