News report: Company threatening bankruptcy filing to avoid responsibility in
more than 30,000 talc-ovarian cancer cases
MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – Attorneys representing several thousand women diagnosed with ovarian cancer after exposure to Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) Baby Powder and other talc-based products are denouncing the company over reports it is considering bankruptcy to avoid financial responsibility.
“This is about as contemptible as it gets,” says attorney Leigh O’Dell of Beasley Allen, co-lead counsel of the plaintiff’s steering committee in federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) in New Jersey. “These women have suffered enough. If this report is true, we believe it’s time for Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate and outlaw cash-rich companies from playing corporate shell games and using federal bankruptcy law to avoid paying the victims they’ve hurt and misled.”
According to a July 28 report by the Reuters news agency, “Exclusive: J&J exploring putting talc liabilities into bankruptcy – sources,” the company, which enjoys a $443 billion market capitalization, is considering bankruptcy to limit financial exposure to thousands of lawsuits related to its talc-based products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower brands.
Dozens of studies published in peer-reviewed journals during the past 25 years have shown a statistically significant association between talc use and ovarian cancer. Documents produced at trial show that the company was aware of the possible dangers as far back as the 1960s.
Since 2013, juries in numerous trials have found J&J liable for compensatory and punitive damages to ovarian cancer victims, although many verdicts were later overturned in appellate courts on jurisdictional grounds, but not on the merits of the case.
Last year, a Missouri appellate court entered a $2.1 billion judgment against the company. Justices found “significant reprehensibility” in J&J’s handling of the issue of asbestos in its baby powder and concluded that J&J avoided “adopting more accurate measures for detecting asbestos,” while discussing the asbestos risk of the powder in internal memos and refusing until recently to replace talc in its baby powder with corn starch, which doesn’t pose a cancer risk.
Both the Missouri Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court declined to overturn the award. A bankruptcy filing could significantly reduce the compensation available to remaining claimants and would prevent them from having their day in court.
“Solvent corporations should not be able to abuse the bankruptcy process to shield themselves from their responsibilities,” says trial lawyer Michelle Parfitt, co-lead counsel in the federal talc MDL and a senior partner in the law firm, Ashcraft & Gerel. “This would be corporate welfare of the worst kind. And who would suffer the most? The women who have already lost so much due to J&J’s behavior. I believe they are attempting to intimidate them by threatening bankruptcy. It won’t work.”
About the Beasley Allen Law Firm
Headquartered in Montgomery, Ala., Beasley Allen is comprised of more than 70 attorneys and 200 support staff. One of the largest Plaintiffs law firms in the country, Beasley Allen is a national leader in civil litigation, with verdicts and settlements in excess of $26 billion. For more information visit www.beasleyallen.com.
Androvett Legal Media