Since 2014, Johnson & Johnson has been sued thousands of times after word of its talc-based baby powder being contaminated with asbestos became widely known.
Just in the past week, there have been two major developments regarding these lawsuits.
1. Talc supplier’s bankruptcy will provide assets to fund a trust for victims
Imerys Talc America mines talc and is the primary supplier for talc to Johnson & Johnson. The company filed bankruptcy in February 2019 after being sued in many of the same lawsuits with J&J.
Now, in an effort to resolve its bankruptcy, Imerys has agreed fund a trust to compensate talc victims. It will do so by auctioning off its operations and assets, by turning over approximately $132 million in cash or cash-equivalents, and by relinquishing claims to insurance coverage that might net over $2 billion.
Provided they meet the requisite qualifying standards, victims with talc-based claims alleging the talc caused them to develop ovarian cancer or mesothelioma could then obtain compensation from that trust. Future victims would also be similarly compensated.
2. Johnson & Johnson to stop the sale of talcum baby powder
On Tuesday, May 19, The New York Times reported that Johnson & Johnson is discontinuing its sale of talc-based baby powder in the U.S. and Canada. To many safety advocates, this was a long-overdue action. Not surprisingly, the company claimed it did so due to a reduction in sales, and not due to the question of safety surrounding the product and the claims that the baby powder led to cancer diagnoses.
What does this mean for victims?
At the time it filed bankruptcy, Imerys was facing over 14,000 lawsuits. While the bankruptcy filing effectively put an end to those lawsuits, the prospect of a trust fund being available to compensate victims provides hope that victims might still recover some measure of compensation from Imerys. What happens with J&J and the 20,000 or so lawsuits that it currently faces remains to be seen.
Victims diagnosed with ovarian cancer or mesothelioma (a rare, asbestos-related malignancy) after using talc-based baby powder should consult an experienced products liability attorney to determine their options and get the compensation they deserve.