A New Jersey bankruptcy court judge ruled in favor of Johnson & Johnson – and against thousands of victims of corporate wrongdoing – by allowing the company to continue forward with its “Texas Two-Step” plans.
Judge Michael Kaplan ruled Friday that Johnson & Johnson’s plan to create a subsidiary to house all talc-related legal claims – and then go bankrupt – would benefit victims by expediting cases. However, this resolution will most likely significantly decrease the payouts to victims and their suffering families affected by talc and asbestos.
Mesothelioma Guide reported last week the case had reached bankruptcy court. The blog was updated with the judge’s ruling Friday. All lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson were halted last November due to the bankruptcy saga with the manufacturing giant’s subsidiary LLC.
The decision has been widely criticized by asbestos activists and mesothelioma experts. The judge’s decision removes most legal power from the patients and allows Johnson & Johnson to limit their financial responsibility to the victims of their corporate malfeasance.
Judge Kaplan even acknowledged most patients will disagree with his decision.
“The Court is aware that its decision today will be met with much angst and concern,” Kaplan wrote in his decision. “The Court remains steadfast in its belief that justice will best be served by expeditiously providing critical compensation through a court-supervised, fair, and less costly settlement trust arrangement.”
What Johnson & Johnson Is Doing With Asbestos Claims
Johnson & Johnson created a subsidiary company called LTL Management to house all legal complaints about asbestos in its products. Since there are approximately 38,000 pending legal cases against Johnson & Johnson, according to NRP’s reporting, a move to file for bankruptcy would be a major sidestepping of legal responsibility.
Filing for bankruptcy allows the subsidiary – with the financial backing of Johnson & Johnson – to create an asbestos trust fund. This legal term is defined as an account that pays out victims of legal claims a set amount of money while avoiding most of the legal steps usually involved with lawsuits, verdicts and settlements.
For now, the pending 38,000 lawsuits will remain just that – pending.
The judge stated only 49 cases proceeded to verdict since 2014, while an estimated 10,000 new cases are filed each year. However, there have been nearly 7,000 settlements reached between Johnson & Johnson and victims.
In many cases, the link between Johnson & Johnson and the victim’s health issue is indisputable. Reuters and other websites reported Johnson & Johnson knew its talc products may be tainted with asbestos. Tests proved trace amounts of asbestos in some samples of Johnson & Johnson products.
Johnson & Johnson has been hit with verdicts of:
- $750 million awarded to four mesothelioma patients
- $26.5 million to one mesothelioma victim
- $40 million from a California jury
- $325 million to an asbestos cancer victim
These are just a few examples. If LTL Management is allowed to go bankrupt, no more asbestos talc cases will be eligible for lawsuits – meaning they won’t be eligible for the justifiable verdicts Johnson & Johnson deserves to face.
Johnson & Johnson’s Link to Mesothelioma Cancer
Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder has been the center of controversy for years due to concerns of asbestos contaminating the talc-based product. Both asbestos and talc are naturally forming minerals – often found in the same geographical habitats.
Mining for talc can inadvertently lead to mining for asbestos, and grinding talc mineral into a talcum powder can disturb asbestos and leave sharp strands within the powder. Since asbestos is invisible to the naked eye and difficult to detect in talcum powder, the loose fibers defile the product and provide danger to consumers.
Inhaling (breathing in) or ingesting (swallowing) asbestos fibers can cause severe health issues, including malignant mesothelioma. This rare cancer forms in the narrow tissue lining around either the lungs or abdomen.
The lining has two layers of tissue with a thin tunnel of fluid sandwiched between. When fibers irritate the exterior of this lining or enter the lining and pierce into the interior tissue walls, the tissue cells can mutate and turn cancerous.
Asbestos exposure can also cause lung cancer, ovarian cancer and a lung tissue inflammation condition called asbestosis. All are worthy reasons for taking legal action and some of these health issues are the basis of pending lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson.
The pharmaceutical and cosmetic manufacturer had other talc-based products, but the Baby Powder received the most national attention due to its popularity in North American consumer markets. Johnson & Johnson agreed in 2020 to stop manufacturing and selling the Baby Powder in the United States and Canada due to public backlash and a mountain of legal claims against the company.
Sources & Author
- Johnson & Johnson wins a key battle in baby powder case. NPR. Retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/2022/02/25/1083061992/johnson-johnson-wins-court-battle-bankruptcy-baby-powder. Accessed: 03/01/2022.
Sources & Author