On Jan. 23, 2024, per Reuters, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) reached a tentative $700 million settlement to resolve investigations by 42 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., into whether the company misled consumers about the safety of its talc products. Per CNBC, a J&J October 2023 securities filing reported the launch of these joint investigations.
CNBC also noted the proposed settlement does not resolve tens of thousands of consumer lawsuits, some of which are scheduled to go to trial this year (2024).
See related: Hair Relaxer-Cancer Lawsuits Will Move Forward
As previously reported, J&J's talc-based baby powder was allegedly contaminated with asbestos and claimed to cause cancer in thousands of consumers. In early April 2023, the company offered to pay $8.9 billion to settle these claims, "relying on a controversial bankruptcy maneuver in an effort to put an end to decades of litigation that has tainted the company’s image," per the Washington Post.
This refers to the formation of J&J subsidiary LTL Management, which was created in 2021 to resolve talc claims but after its formation, filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The courts rejected this and a second attempt to file for bankruptcy; although per CNBC, J&J said in late 2023 that it is considering a third attempt.
J&J maintains its products are safe, although it ended the sale of talc-based baby powder products in North America in 2020. The company also fired back and overturned one ruling for a $223 million payout over "improper scientific testimony." Ordering a new trial, the three-judge appeals panel reportedly wrote that "the lower court failed to fulfill its 'gatekeeping role' of assessing whether the plaintiffs’ experts based their testimony on sound science."
In relation, J&J filed suits against four doctors in July 2023 who published studies linking talc-based personal care to cancer, Reuters previously reported. The company alleged they reported "junk science" and asked the court to force the researchers to retract or issue corrections on the studies.
Beyond the $700 million proposed settlement for states, according to the Lawsuit Information Center, a firm representing the plaintiffs in J&J talc lawsuits, J&J has offered $6.9 billion to settle more than 50,000 ovarian cancer claims; so the average talc settlement under this proposal would be around $130,000. While the previous offer was $8.9 billion, J&J is reportedly handling the mesothelioma cancer claims separately now.