While a federal appeals court has yet to determine whether Johnson & Johnson can move forward with its bankruptcy tactic in the United States, the company may have to address similar talcum powder cancer cases filed in the United Kingdom. A group of lawsuits has emerged in the U.K. in which plaintiffs allege J&J’s talc-based products gave them ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. Johnson & Johnson has encountered similar allegations in state and federal court in the U.S. until it paused talc litigation through its “Texas-Two Step” bankruptcy maneuver. However, attorneys estimate the company could soon face thousands of additional claims overseas.
Talcum Powder Lawsuits in U.S. Remain in Limbo
The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation centralized claims that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma in October 2016. Nearly five years later, the talc multidistrict litigation had grown to almost 38,000 cases. By October 2021, more cases continued to pour in, while Johnson & Johnson continued to lose trials that amounted to roughly $3 billion in verdicts. With no sign of litigation slowing down, Johnson & Johnson resorted to a controversial bankruptcy ploy to stall lawsuits.
J&J created a subsidiary called LTL Management to absorb all pending talc liabilities. LTL Management swiftly filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, stopping all talcum powder cancer litigation from moving forward. Plaintiff attorneys and the Department of Justice have criticized this bankruptcy move as a violation and abuse of the restructuring process.
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia is still deliberating whether J&J can proceed with this plan. We may receive a decision by late 2022.
Talcum Powder Litigation Brews in the United Kingdom
Although Johnson & Johnson has temporarily managed to halt talc lawsuits in the U.S., it has not absolved itself from liability elsewhere. The pharmaceutical and personal care company has sold its signature baby powder and other talc-oriented products for over one hundred years. J&J is a multinational company whose personal hygiene products have proved lucrative in the states and globally. Therefore, it is no surprise that individuals outside the U.S. have also used J&J talc-based products. While J&J vowed to stop selling talc-based products globally, this will not undo the damage of years of distributing the products worldwide.
Attorneys who previously secured plaintiffs substantial verdicts in the U.S. are now leading talcum powder lawsuits in the United Kingdom. Mark Lanier helped 22 women who alleged Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer win a $4.7 billion verdict in July 2018. Even though a court later reduced this amount to $2.1 billion, this verdict marked an important step in talcum powder litigation. Lanier has now co-founded the new U.K. law firm, Lanier, Longstaff, Hedar & Roberts LLP, to pursue lawsuits for U.K. individuals diagnosed with ovarian cancer or mesothelioma after using Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products.
While the legal group has not filed any claims yet, Lanier commented, “we believe there are many more victims, including in the UK, who deserve justice for having their lives cut short by these terrible and incurable cancers, which could so easily have been avoided.”