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Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson’s benevolent reputation has been overshadowed by recent revelations that one of the company’s most trusted products was laced with asbestos. Instead of warning the public, Johnson & Johnson actively concealed the presence of asbestos in baby powder and continued to market it as safe. As a result, thousands of Americans have contracted mesothelioma and ovarian cancer from asbestos in Johnson & Johnson baby powder. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed, contact The Lanier Law Firm today.

Legally Reviewed By: Case A. Dam
Senior Attorney | Mesothelioma & Asbestos

Case Dam

Legally Reviewed By: Case A. Dam
Senior Attorney | Mesothelioma & Asbestos

Johnson & Johnson was founded in 1886 as a sterile surgical dressings manufacturer. The company began producing baby powder in 1894, according to Reuters. Baby powder became an iconic product in the company’s well-known line of baby products, which include the famous no-tears baby shampoo and baby lotion.

These products helped Johnson & Johnson forge its gentle, benevolent reputation that it would enjoy for well over a century until the first lawsuit was filed in 1997 by one of Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder asbestos victims. This marked the beginning of a barrage of lawsuits by thousands of injured baby powder users.

If you or a beloved family member has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson’s cosmetic talc products, our experienced mesothelioma lawyers can help you hold Johnson & Johnson accountable. Call us today at (866) 341-1675 for a free consultation.

Litigation Against Johnson & Johnson and the Scandalous Texas Two-Step: A Timeline

November 2023

Los Angeles County, California has filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson for false advertising and targeting Hispanic and African American women when marketing a harmful product.

October 2023

Bloomberg News reported that Johnson & Johnson is considering attempting a third bankruptcy in Houston after its two failed attempts in New Jersey. This move would be an attempt to capitalize on the resignation of a leading U.S. Bankruptcy judge in Houston as a result of an ethics inquiry.

This third bankruptcy attempt will only include asbestos exposure claimants with ovarian cancer, not those diagnosed with mesothelioma, and the offer remains at $8.9 billion. This means plaintiffs with mesothelioma would still be free to sue. It is Johnson & Johnson’s intention to pursue a fast-tracked bankruptcy in this scenario.

October 16: There are 52,995 cases in MDL 2738.

September 2023

September 15: The number of cases in the MDL has grown to 47,346, and this number is expected to continue to grow rapidly now that the bankruptcy stay has been lifted.

September 11: One of the four scientists Johnson & Johnson is suing filed a motion to dismiss Johnson & Johnson’s lawsuit against her. According to the motion filed on behalf of Dr. Moline, her research is protected by free speech, and the lawsuit is merely an attempt to intimidate scientific experts.

August 2023

August 15, 2023: There are 37,770 cases pending in the MDL. The most recent dismissal of Johnson & Johnson’s Texas Two-Step has paved the way for the bankruptcy stay on these cases to be lifted. These cases can now move forward after being on hold for more than a year and a half.

August 11: U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Kaplan formally dismissed LTL Management’s second bankruptcy case. Johnson & Johnson has vowed to appeal. Judge Kaplan stopped short of banning LTL Management from filing for bankruptcy in the future.

August 7: Lawyers for plaintiffs in the Johnson & Johnson asbestos claims called for Judge Kaplan to block Johnson & Johnson from filing for bankruptcy for at least six months.

July 2023

July 28: Judge Kaplan of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey rejected the bankruptcy filing of Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary LTL Management on the basis that the lawsuits against it did not put the company in “imminent or immediate financial distress.”

July 7: Johnson & Johnson filed lawsuits against three more scientists under the name of its subsidiary LTL Management. These researchers published studies linking Johnson & Johnson’s personal care products to cancer. LTL is seeking special, punitive, and compensatory damages and asking the court to compel the scientists to release confidential information and retract their statements that cosmetic talc is linked to cancer.

June 2023

Although the lawsuits remain on hold, Judge Kaplan allowed the case of a 24-year-old mesothelioma victim to move forward due to his short life expectancy. He developed pericardial mesothelioma after his mother used Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder on him during infancy and early childhood. However, he will not be able to collect on any judgment until the hold is lifted.

May 2023

May 31: In an apparently desperate attempt to escape liability, Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary LTL Management filed a defamation lawsuit against Dr. Jacqueline Moline, a scientist who has testified against the baby powder manufacturer in court regarding her research linking asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s personal care products to cancer.
The lawsuit alleges that her statements are false, that she knows they are false, and that she is motivated by fame and fortune.

May 11: An official committee of talc claimants filed a motion in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court alleging that Johnson & Johnson’s termination of the funding agreement between itself and its subsidiary amounts to a fraudulent transfer for the purpose of manufacturing financial stress in its continuing effort to use bankruptcy to defraud victims of their well-deserved compensation.

April 2023

April 20: With approximately 60,000 plaintiffs against it, Johnson & Johnson made its second attempt at filing for bankruptcy in New Jersey after raising the proposed asbestos trust fund to $8.9 billion, promising that anyone diagnosed with cancer before April 1, 2023 having access to funds within a year of the Chapter 11 Bankruptcy being approved.

Johnson & Johnson’s lawyers claim money would be available for future claimants for up to 25 years. While $8.9 billion sounds like a significant sum, it is not enough to cover even the medical bills of the current claimants, let alone future claimants. It will be necessary for at least 75 percent of claimants to agree before the bankruptcy can be approved on these terms, and this is not likely.
With this filing, Judge Michael Kaplan once again froze the 38,000 pending lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson for at least 60 days. However, the court will allow new lawsuits to be filed during this period.

April 3, 2023: The Third Circuit denied Johnson & Johnson’s motion to delay dismissing its Bankruptcy case, resulting in the 38,000 pending lawsuits being allowed to move forward, but this was short-lived.

March 2023

Johnson & Johnson vowed to take its claims to the United States Supreme Court. The lawsuits have been frozen for 17 months as a result of Johnson & Johnson’s stall tactics.

February 2023

A new judge was assigned to oversee MDL 2738 after former Judge Freda Wolfson retired. The new judge is the Honorable Michael Shipp.

January 2023

January 30: In an important courtroom victory for plaintiffs, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Johnson & Johnson’s Texas Two-Step maneuver by dismissing the bankruptcy filed by the newly created subsidiary LTL Management, LLC. The decision was unanimous.

According to the ruling, only companies in financial distress can declare bankruptcy, but Johnson & Johnson had agreed to provide LTL with up to $61.5 billion to fund its liabilities. Judge Thomas Ambro wrote in his opinion that Johnson & Johnson serves as a “backstop, not unlike an ATM disguised as a contract.”
He also noted that Johnson & Johnson holds significant assets that are inconsistent with financial distress, including the following:

  • $400 billion in equity value
  • A AAA credit rating
  • $31 billion in cash and marketable securities
  • $13 billion sent to shareholders in 2020 and 2021

It is apparent that the court recognized that Johnson & Johnson attempted to take advantage of the U.S. Bankruptcy system so it could cheat legitimate asbestos exposure victims out of an opportunity to have their day in court without suffering a hit to its credit record or other consequences.

2022

February 25: Federal Bankruptcy Judge Michael Kaplan affirmed Johnson & Johnson’s bankruptcy maneuver, which will allow Johnson & Johnson to resolve approximately 38,000 lawsuits through bankruptcy rather than through the tort system. This move could cost victims of asbestos exposure billions of dollars in much-needed compensation.

In the meantime, all pending cases are halted until the bankruptcy is completed or dismissed.

2021

Johnson & Johnson created a plan to use the infamous Texas Two-Step maneuver to sidestep liability for asbestos in its personal care products by moving liabilities out of the tort system and into bankruptcy. This plan was hatched in secrecy under a project known as “Project Plato,” which was known to just 30 staffers. They were ordered to keep even the existence of the project secret, even from their spouses.

This plan was implemented in October when it established a subsidiary in Texas, shifted its liabilities into the newly created subsidiary, then had the new subsidiary, LTL Management, LLC, file for bankruptcy in North Carolina, thinking it would be a more favorable court. The case was moved to New Jersey.

June 1, 2021: The United States Supreme Court declined to hear Johnson & Johnson’s appeal of the $2.11 billion verdict, allowing it to stand.

2020

June 23, 2020: The Missouri Court of Appeals of the Eastern District reduced the $4.69 billion verdict against Johnson & Johnson to $2.11 billion. Johnson & Johnson appealed this to the Missouri Supreme Court. The court denied a review, upholding the $2.11 billion verdict.

2018

July 12, 2018: A St. Louis Jury rendered a $4.69 billion verdict in favor of 22 women who were represented in the first successful case to connect asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder to ovarian cancer. Johnson & Johnson promised to appeal.

2016

October 4: Fifty-four pending cases against Johnson & Johnson in 33 districts across the country were transferred to multi-district litigation (MDL). The cases have been assigned to Judge Freda L. Wolfson in the District of New Jersey. The case is MDL 2738 In Re: Johnson & Jonson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices, And Products Liability Litigation.

The Discovery of Asbestos in Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder

Until recently, the main ingredient in Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder has been talc. Talc is a mineral that is mined from the earth. It is valued for its soft texture and ability to absorb moisture. These qualities make it desirable for use in hygiene and cosmetic products.

Unfortunately, talc deposits are often located near asbestos deposits, resulting in asbestos contamination of talc. Johnson & Johnson became aware that its own talc mines were contaminated at least as early as the 1950s.

Asbestos Contamination of Italian Talc

Beginning in 1957, Johnson & Johnson’s own testing of its products revealed that both raw talc and finished powders tested positive for various forms of asbestos. A report in 1957 showing the test results on talc from Pinerolo, Italy, revealed a finding that the talc was contaminated with amphiboles, a family of asbestos.

The 1958 follow-up report revealed an additional finding of asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s talc, specifying that the specific form of asbestos is tremolite, part of the amphibole family.

Persistent Findings of Asbestos Contamination in Talc

The finding of asbestos in the 1957 and 1958 samples was only the beginning. Johnson & Johnson continued to find asbestos in varying forms in its testing. Throughout the 1970s, multiple samples of Johnson & Johnson’s talc tested positive for asbestos, according to a Reuter’s investigative report.

Johnson & Johnson never made this information public. In 1964, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary purchased a cluster of talc mines in Vermont. By 1967, samples of talc from these mines tested positive for tremolite asbestos.

Johnson & Johnson continued mining from the same sources long after testing throughout the 1970s revealed asbestos contamination of chrysotile and tremolite asbestos.

talcum powder

Doctors Warn Johnson & Johnson About Talc in Baby Powder

In 1969, pediatricians began inquiring about the safety of Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder. Even the company’s former CEO and co-founder’s son raised concerns about the product’s safety for mothers and children.

Company doctors replied to these inquiries with assurances that the product was safe while at the same time expressing to Johnson & Johnson executives that if the product contains tremolite asbestos, it is not safe. The doctors even warned the company about the possibility of litigation.

During the early 1970s, Dr. Irving Selikoff, a prominent doctor leading a research team at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, discovered asbestos in talc and notified New York’s environmental protection chief, Jerome Kretchmer. This led to a Food & Drug Administration inquiry.

Johnson & Johnson’s Concealment Efforts

Johnson & Johnson issued an emphatic statement to the FDA that its talc-based products do not contain asbestos. But a prominent researcher, Arthur Langer, also found asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s talc products. In response, Johnson & Johnson placed Dr. Selikoff, Mr. Kretchmer, and Mr. Langer on its list of “antagonistic personalities.”

Instead of doing the right thing and warning the public about the potential risks, Johnson and Johnson attempted to hide asbestos contamination from regulatory agencies, attempted to influence policies in its own favor, and continued to push the public narrative that its talc-based products were safe.

In 1976, Johnson & Johnson sent a falsified report to the FDA in an attempt to end the investigation. The company also attempted in vain to persuade the FDA to alter its testing policies to allow a testing method that only detects asbestos if the level is one percent or higher. The FDA’s proposed asbestos limit at the time was .1 percent.

Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder Today

Johnson & Johnson continued to primarily source its talc from the Vermont mines, despite numerous positive tests for asbestos. In 2003, Johnson & Johnson began sourcing talc from China through Imerys Talc America.

Although FDA testing of several samples from these mines in 2009 did not reveal asbestos, Imerys Talc America is named in several lawsuits as asbestos-related illnesses from baby powder continue to emerge. In 2019, 33,000 bottles of talc-based Johnson & Johnson baby powder were recalled due to asbestos contamination.

As a result of billions of dollars in liability and growing public concern about the safety of talc-based products, Johnson & Johnson has ceased sales of talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada, replacing it with cornstarch-based baby powder.

Johnson & Johnson’s Questionable Practices

Despite its benevolent image, Johnson & Johnson has engaged in a pattern of conduct that reveals its intentions to prioritize profits over ethics and human health.

Concealing and Falsifying Studies

In addition to falsifying reports for the FDA and trying to change policies that would have allowed the presence of asbestos to be ignored, Johnson & Johnson has also exhibited a pattern of discarding reports and firing researchers who report results they don’t like.

A documentary by the New York Times revealed that Johnson & Johnson hired an Israeli researcher in the 1970s to check for asbestos in samples. When the samples tested positive, the researcher was fired, and the results were not reported.

When asked if their products contain asbestos, Johnson & Johnson falsely states that their products are safe, do not contain asbestos, and do not cause health problems. However, the litigants in more than 38,000 lawsuits can attest that this is not the truth.

Prison Studies

In another testament to Johnson & Johnson’s lack of ethics, Johnson & Johnson was involved in the deplorable practice of using black inmates as human guinea pigs, according to Bloomberg news.

In these experiments, Johnson & Johnson researchers injected asbestos into the backs of the inmates to determine how asbestos affects the skin in comparison to talc, perhaps in a shameless effort to evade liability for the presence of asbestos in its products.

Marketing to Black Women

The National Council of Negro Women is suing Johnson & Johnson for unfairly targeting black women in its efforts to market a product it knew was harmful, according to the New York Times. The marketing campaigns included radio campaigns and free samples in beauty parlors.

The council states in the lawsuit that the company knew black women would be more likely to use the product. Black women face disadvantages when dealing with the harmful health effects of Johnson & Johnson products because they are more likely to be uninsured or underinsured and consequently receive substandard care.

The Effects of Johnson & Johnson
Baby Powder Asbestos

Despite Johnson & Johnson’s persistent denials that their products cause harm, the diseases caused by asbestos in baby powder have been well-established.

Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer that impacts the lining surrounding interior organs. Mesothelioma is often diagnosed in its later stages, and in many cases, the life expectancy is less than a year.

Pleural Mesothelioma

The most common type of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining surrounding the lungs. This can occur as a result of inhaling Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder, which forms a cloud of dust when applied.

This is how Darlene Coker, a regular user of Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder, most likely contracted pleural mesothelioma, a condition she died from in 2009.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common type of mesothelioma, impacting the lining surrounding the stomach. This can occur as a result of ingesting asbestos fibers, as was the case for Hanna Wilt, a daily user of Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder who died from peritoneal mesothelioma in February 2022.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is a rare, deadly form of cancer that is often asymptomatic until it reaches the later stages, resulting in a delayed diagnosis. The prognosis is often poor because the cancer quickly spreads to other organs.

Johnson & Johnson has long marketed baby powder and Shower to Shower, another talc-based product, as feminine hygiene products that can be applied to the female genitalia for moisture and odor control. Applying the product in this way has been implicated in numerous cases of ovarian cancer.

The Lanier Law Firm’s
Historical Johnson & Johnson Verdict

The first successful lawsuit connecting Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder to ovarian cancer was filed by The Lanier Law Firm on behalf of 22 women. The court ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a total of $4.69 billion in damages, which included $4.14 billion in punitive damages.

Punitive damages are awarded when the court finds evidence of egregious conduct, such as malice, gross negligence, or fraudulent concealment. In Johnson & Johnson’s case, the court found that Johnson & Johnson knew its baby powder was dangerous and fraudulently concealed this information while continuing to market the product as safe.

Johnson & Johnson appealed the $4.69 billion verdict to the Missouri Supreme Court, which upheld the verdict while reducing the award. Two of the women’s cases were dismissed for jurisdictional reasons, and the punitive damages for the remaining 20 were reduced to $1.6 billion, for a total award of $2.11 billion.

This is still a significant victory for the women and their families, and it was a landmark case that set a precedent for future cases. In its opinion, the Missouri Supreme Court acknowledged that Johnson & Johnson’s conduct was reprehensible.

Johnson & Johnson appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case, allowing the verdict to stand.

Talcum powder

Can I file an asbestos lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson?

Asbestos-related lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson are moving forward again after Johnson & Johnson’s second bankruptcy attempt was foiled by plaintiffs who insisted on receiving the justice they deserve.

If the bankruptcy had been approved, you would not be able to file a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson in the future. Instead, you would have been limited to a trust fund claim, which would likely pay significantly less than your actual damages, based on the low amounts Johnson & Johnson has offered for such a fund.

Johnson & Johnson’s Bankruptcy Maneuver

In a move commonly referred to as the “Texas two-step,” Johnson & Johnson took advantage of a law in Texas that allows companies to set up a separate entity and shift its liabilities to that entity. Johnson & Johnson’s new entity is known as LTL Management LLC, according to a special report by Reuters.

With all the asbestos liabilities shifted to the new company, Johnson & Johnson’s next move was a bankruptcy filing by LTL in October 2021. As part of the bankruptcy reorganization, the new entity, LTL, will be required to establish an asbestos trust fund.

Johnson & Johnson’s Asbestos Trust Fund

Johnson & Johnson has stated that it intends to establish an asbestos trust fund with $2 billion as part of LTL’s Chapter 11 reorganization. The company claims that its objective is to reach a “fair and equitable resolution” to address claims in a manner that would serve the interests of claimants and all stakeholders.

When plaintiffs rejected this low figure and successfully fought the first bankruptcy attempt, Johnson & Johnson upped the ante to $8.9 billion. This is still woefully inadequate, and plaintiffs have successfully prevailed against Johnson & Johnson’s second bankruptcy attempt, which included this proposed funding amount.

This is a cryptic way of saying they want to shield their assets and avoid compensating the large number of deserving individuals who were harmed by their products. The result will be less money for each claimant and zero accountability for Johnson & Johnson.

What is the status of the bankruptcy?

Cancer victims have appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia on the grounds that Johnson & Johnson established what essentially amounts to a fake corporation in a bad-faith effort to prevent victims harmed by their products from seeking justice in a court of law.

The U.S. Department of Justice has also challenged the maneuver, citing concerns of setting a dangerous precedent that would allow all companies and wealthy individuals to use the same maneuver to avoid legitimate civil liability.

Members of Congress have also taken notice. In response, the Nondebtor Release Prohibition Act has been introduced to prohibit these types of maneuvers.

Johnson & Johnson’s bankruptcy has been dismissed twice, and lawsuits are currently moving forward. However, Johnson & Johnson has threatened to make a third attempt at bankruptcy, which could result in the cases being frozen again.

If allowed to go bankrupt, current plaintiffs will be limited to a significantly reduced payout, and funds could become depleted before thousands of future plaintiffs have an opportunity to come forward.

Should I wait to contact an attorney?

The outcome of the bankruptcy is uncertain, but state laws limit the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit.

Significant preparation is necessary before a claim can be filed. If lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson are allowed to continue, contacting an asbestos exposure attorney now will ensure your case will be ready to file before the deadline has expired. In addition, we can look for additional sources of exposure. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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