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Johnson & Johnson Reaches Settlement In 8.9 Billion Dollar Lawsuit Over Products Containing Talcum Powder

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For more than a decade, tens of thousands of people have been involved in a legal battle against Johnson & Johnson, which has been accused of manufacturing and selling talcum powder products that cause cancer. On Tuesday, the company agreed to pay $8.9 billion to the plaintiffs bringing them a huge step closer to settling the years-long litigation drama.

But there’s still much that needs to be done before nearly 70,000 people start getting paid.

From the New York Times:

The proposed settlement would be paid out over 25 years through a subsidiary, which filed for bankruptcy to enable the $8.9 billion trust, Johnson & Johnson said in a court filing. If a bankruptcy court approves it, the agreement will resolve all current and future claims involving Johnson & Johnson products that contain talc, such as baby powder, the company said.

For the deal to become final, the court would first have to accept a new bankruptcy filing by the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, LTL Management, and the settlement itself; the company also needs to persuade enough claimants to support the settlement plan. Johnson & Johnson created LTL in 2021 in a maneuver to shield itself from the talc litigation, but an earlier bankruptcy filing by the unit was challenged by the plaintiffs and dismissed this year by a U.S. appeals court, which ruled that a bankruptcy wasn’t the right way to resolve the matter.

Despite the fact that dotting all of the “i”s and crossing all the “t”s to make this proposed settlement happen looks like it could end up being quite the uphill battle, lawyers for many of the plaintiffs, including family members of people who died of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, described the proposal as a “significant victory for the tens of thousands of women suffering from gynecological cancers caused by J.&J.’s talc-based products.”

But not all of the claimants are on board with the agreement.

More from the Times:

Jason Itkin, whose law firm is handling 10,000 cases involving women claiming that talc-based powders made by Johnson & Johnson caused their ovarian cancer, said the settlement was “bad for victims” and would be blocked in court. Even if the company succeeds with its filing, Mr. Itkin said, it will have to persuade enough claimants to vote in favor of the settlement plan.

“Even though $8.9 billion sounds like a lot of money, when you spread it out it comes out to not very much at all for the people who suffered,” he said.

And to think, LTL’s initial bankruptcy filing had only set aside a paltry $2 billion for payouts to plaintiffs before the subsidiary ultimately agreed to add the other $6.9 billion to that figure.

It’s worth noting that Johnson & Johnson stated that its settlement proposal is not an admission of wrongdoing, and, in fact, the company denies all claims that the talc used in its products contained cancer-causing asbestos “are specious and lack scientific merit.”

“Resolving this matter through the proposed reorganization plan is both more equitable and more efficient, allows claimants to be compensated in a timely manner and enables the company to remain focused on our commitment to profoundly and positively impact health for humanity,” said Erik Haas, Johnson & Johnson’s worldwide vice president of litigation.

For the record, the company pledged in 2020 that it would discontinue its talc-based baby powder in the United States, and, this year, it said it would stop selling the product globally.