US judge pauses J&J talc trials, but healthcare giant may face new suits

By Julia Wray | Published: 21-Apr-2023

The 60-day freeze advances J&J’s second attempt to settle cases through subsidiary LTL Management’s bankruptcy proceedings

A US judge has given Johnson & Johnson (J&J) temporary respite from tens of thousands of lawsuits alleging its talc products caused cancer. 

This comes amid J&J’s second attempt to settle cases through its subsidiary LTL Management’s bankruptcy proceedings. 

Judge Michael Kaplan, of the US Bankruptcy Court in Trenton, New Jersey, yesterday extended to J&J the same protection against talc-related trials enjoyed by LTL Management, which was created by J&J to carry its talc-related liabilities into chapter 11. 

The freeze on trials will last 60 days, but new lawsuits can still be filed during this period. 

This marks the second time Kaplan has frozen jury trials in tort litigation alleging J&J’s talc products caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.

The judge granted similar protections to J&J after LTL’s initial entry into chapter 11 in October 2021

That attempt was dismissed this year by the Third Circuit on the grounds that LTL did not face financial distress.

Earlier this month, LTL Management refiled for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with J&J agreeing to contribute up to US$8.9bn, payable over 25 years, to resolve all the current and future talc claims.

This would rank among the largest tort settlements ever if accepted.

Under Thursday’s injunction, plaintiffs’ firms can still conduct discovery involving J&J in their tort lawsuits, and new lawsuits can be filed, Kaplan said.

However it will prevent jury trials from occurring. 

J&J maintains its position that its talcum powder products are safe, and that neither LTL’s original filing nor the re-filing is an admission of wrongdoing.

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