Talcum Powder Lawsuits Reassigned To New MDL Judge, Days After J&J Bankruptcy Plan Rejected By Appeals Court

Following retirement of the original talcum powder MDL judge, the U.S. JPML has appointed U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp to oversee proceedings as active litigation gets back underway in thousands of cases

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has reassigned all federal talcum powder lawsuits to a new judge, after U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson announced her retirement this week.

The litigation will be transferred U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp, just as coordinated pretrial proceedings are expected to resume in the wake of an appeals court decision earlier this week, which rejected Johnson & Johnson’s attempt to force the lawsuits through the U.S. bankruptcy system.

Johnson & Johnson faces more than 38,000 Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits brought by women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, mesothelioma and other injuries after regularly using the popular talc-based products. Each of the claims raise similar allegations that the manufacturer knew about the cancer risks from talcum powder, but failed to warn women for decades.

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Talcum Powder Lawsuits

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

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Since 2016, the cases have been centralized before Judge Wolfson in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, as part of a federal MDL (multidistrict litigation). Following a series of massive jury awards in state court trials, Johnson & Johnson decided to pursue a controversial talcum powder bankruptcy scheme early last year, to avoid federal trials that were expected to begin in early 2022.

Although Johnson & Johnson has billions of assets on hand, it attempted to force all talcum powder lawsuits through the U.S. Bankruptcy system, but transferring all liability it faces for failing to warn consumers about the cancer risks from talcum powder into a separate company, LTL Management, LLC, which then immediately filed for bankruptcy.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rejected the bankruptcy filing, setting the stage for active litigation to resume in the federal talcum powder MDL in 2023.

On Tuesday, Judge Wolfson announced that she is retiring from the federal bench, and returning to private practice. There is no indication her decision is related to the talcum powder litigation, but it comes just as the federal bankruptcy stay on all pretrial proceedings is expected to be lifted.

As a result, on January 31, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) issued an Order (PDF) reassigning the litigation to Judge Shipp, who will also manage the cases out of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

2023 Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update

Johnson & Johnson has indicated it plans to appeal the Third Circuit’s decision to reject its bankruptcy filing. However, unless the manufacturer is able to get the bankruptcy stay continued while waiting to hear whether Supreme Court will even consider its appeal, it is expected that Judge Shipp will revive the bellwether process and may reschedule previously postponed trial dates that were originally set to go before juries in early 2022.

Defending against the talc ovarian cancer claims has already cost Johnson & Johnson $1 billion, on top of Baby Powder settlements and verdicts that have amounted to another $3.5 billion, according to bankruptcy filing.

Estimates have suggested Johnson & Johnson will need to pay over $10 billion to resolve all lawsuits involving cancer caused by their products. However, if each case goes before a jury, the company could be responsible for substantially more in individual talcum powder lawsuit payouts awarded at trial.


Do You Have a Talcum Powder Lawsuit?

Lawyers are still reviewing new claims for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer and other injuries after regular use of Johnson's Baby Powder or other talcum powder products.



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