A Bankruptcy Maneuver: The Only Way Out of Johnson’s Baby Powder Talc Liability?
Johnson & Johnson has come under fire in recent history for its baby powder. The fresh powder scent we’ve come to think of when we think of cute, snuggly babies is now the scent of cancerous fear for many. Numerous claims have been made linking Johnson’s baby powder talc to asbestos and cancer.
The company knew since before the 1970s that the popular talc-based product tested positive for asbestos and decided to withhold that information from the public and the FDA and continue to distribute the product to consumers. This irresponsible act has unfortunately changed the lives of families all over the world. With the company entangled in so much litigation, lawalways is always looking at Johnson & Johnson’s path forward.
Asbestos and Cancer
The problem with the baby powder lies in its main ingredient, talc. When talc is mined, it is often found with asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral widely used in many products because it is heat and corrosion-resistant. These microscopic fibers can build up in human tissues and cause various types of cancer.
J&J received independent lab reports in the late 1950s that there was a problem with asbestos. And it wasn’t until 1976 that the FDA put limits on the amount of asbestos allowed in cosmetic products. With only a tiny fraction of the product being tested, it was easy for the company to sweep the ugly truth under the rug.
Now that the truth has come to light, the company has nearly 40,000 lawsuits claiming that J&Js baby powder caused their cancer. In October of 2021, J&J filed for bankruptcy with the hope that the lawsuits would be frozen while the bankruptcy case is heard in a process that could take a number of years.
On November 10, 2021, a North Carolina federal bankruptcy judge halted the cases for 60 days and ruled that the cases should be heard in New Jersey, where the company is headquartered. This comes after J&J created the subsidiary, LTL, to move the talc-related liability into. Their attempt to limit their legal liability may not be as successful as they hoped. They are being urged to withdraw their bankruptcy petition so that consumers can have an opportunity to be compensated.
A bankruptcy maneuver: Other Options
Filing for bankruptcy isn’t their only option out of this messy situation. They can also take responsibility and do their best to make those who have been affected by their baby powder whole.
LTL is still maintaining that the powder is safe to use and free from cancer-causing asbestos. The bankruptcy option is becoming increasingly frowned upon by lawmakers, and J&J may be speeding the train along that will end billionaires and large corporations being able to use bankruptcy as a way to evade liability.
Those affected by Johnson & Johnson’s carelessness are undoubtedly watching to see how the courts handle this situation. Lawmakers are also watching closely and considering introducing laws to prevent this type of behavior in the future. But for now, the case is being moved to New Jersey and the new judge has 60 days to get up to speed on the case and resume the proceedings.