As the number of talc powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson continues to rise, the multinational corporation has reserved $3.9 billion for litigation expenses and settlements, reports Business Insider. The planned reserve represents a marked increase from the $400 million that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) had earmarked for such expenses in 2019.
Details from Johnson & Johnson’s SEC Filing
The corporation’s SEC filing provided details of numerous product liability claims and lawsuits connected to multiple J&J products. As of the SEC filing, Johnson’s Baby Powder and other baby powders containing talc were the alleged source of personal injury claims in 25,000 current lawsuits. Primarily, lawsuits have been filed in state courts in Missouri, New Jersey, and California, as well as in some courts outside the country. However, most of these cases are pending in federal court after being organized into multi-district litigation (MDL) in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. Discovery is now underway.
The pharmaceutical giant appealed a $4.69 billion judgment in favor of plaintiffs, but the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld the lower-court ruling. The case involved 22 women who developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder. The award was reduced to $2.12 billion.
Johnson & Johnson’s SEC filing further informs that despite its “confidence in the safety of its talc products,” the company has and will continue to settle cases.
Two of the corporation’s talc suppliers filed a voluntary chapter 11 petition in February 2019. Specifically, Imerys’ bankruptcy asserts its potential liability for talcum powder caused personal injury from products it sold. The SEC filing also presents an accounting of a securities class action lawsuit filed in February 2018, in which the corporation is accused of failing to disclose that its talc-baby powders were allegedly contaminated with the asbestos carcinogen.
Asbestos in Johnson & Johnson Talc Products
A 2018 Reuters report revealed company documents from Johnson & Johnson that suggested that as far back as 1971 the corporation was aware that talc mining could result in asbestos contamination. Talc naturally occurs and is mined in areas that contain asbestos. Both minerals are naturally occurring, but asbestos—when inhaled—is a known carcinogen, according to the FDA.
It was not until October 2019 that the company admitted to the finding of amounts of asbestos in a single bottle of its baby powder. The discovery prompted Johnson & Johnson to issue a recall of 33,000 bottles of its baby powder, as reported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and motivated various pharmacies—including Walmart, Rite Aid, and CVS Health—to pull the product from their shelves. A full listing of cosmetic products that tested positive for asbestos can be found on the FDA website.
Finally, in May 2020, Johnson & Johnson officially announced its discontinuation of talc-based baby powder sales in both the United States and Canada.