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Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay Oregon woman with mesothelioma $260M in latest talc trial

The solicitation period for the company's latest settlement proposal to cover cancer allegations opens this week.
Johnson's baby powder
Posted at 2:18 PM, Jun 04, 2024

A jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $260 million to an Oregon woman who said she developed a deadly cancer from using the company’s products that contained talc powder.

The pharmaceutical company has faced countless lawsuits in recent years claiming the talc powder found in products like Johnson & Johnson baby powder contained asbestos, a known carcinogen — which Johnson & Johnson said was proven false decades ago.

Nevertheless, 49-year-old Kyung Lee was awarded $200 million in punitive damages and $60 million in compensatory damages by the 4th Judicial District Circuit Court in Portland.

Lee’s attorneys said the mother of three was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer found in the lining of the lungs, in August 2023.

“For years, Kyung and her family used Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder not having any idea it could lead to a life-ending illness,” said attorney Ben Adams of Dean Omar Branham Shirley. “Today, Ms. Lee was able to see justice and secure a future for her family after she is gone.”

Erik Haas, worldwide vice president of litigation for Johnson & Johnson, said they plan to immediately appeal the decision and are confident it will be reversed, “like the majority of aberrant adverse verdicts that have no basis in the law or science.”

“As the Court acknowledged, the plaintiffs’ counsel engaged in 'willful and bad faith conduct' during the trial, which by itself is grounds for reversal,” Haas continued.

Johnson & Johnson, considered the world's largest manufacturer of health care products, began discontinuing its baby powder in 2020.

Earlier this year, it agreed to pay around $700 million following an investigation by dozens of states into claims that the company misled consumers about the safety of its talc baby powder.

Johnson & Johnson had twice tried to use bankruptcy courts as a way to limit its liability, proposing last year to pay nearly $9 billion to settle more than 52,000 personal injury lawsuits – many of which were filed by women who allegedly developed ovarian cancer after using the company's talc-based products.

Now, its latest settlement proposal is to pay approximately $6.48 billion over 25 years to cover the cancer allegations. Part of that plan includes a three-month solicitation period, which opens this week, during which ovarian cancer claimants can vote for or against the plan.

If 75% of claimants vote in favor of the plan, a subsidiary may file a "prepackaged" Chapter 11 bankruptcy to secure its confirmation, according to The Associated Press.

Johnson & Johnson said that the plan would resolve 99.75% of all pending talc lawsuits against it and its affiliates in the U.S.

“Unlike the prior cases, it is the vote of the claimants — and not the conflicting financial incentives of the small minority of plaintiff lawyers who stand to receive excessive legal fees outside of a reorganization — that decides whether the plan may proceed,” said Haas.

Johnson and Johnson Consumer Health center

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Johnson & Johnson proposes $6.48B to settle talc ovarian cancer lawsuits

AP via Scripps News
12:00 PM, May 01, 2024