The Talc Lawsuit Explained

Jun 19, 2023 | Defective Pharmaceuticals, Product Liability

talcum powder

Johnson & Johnson talc litigation is in limbo as U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Kaplan weighs a potential settlement as well as a second corporate bankruptcy, putting most of the litigation temporarily on hold during a hearing in Trenton, New Jersey. The decision, for the most part, froze cases while the company worked with current plaintiffs to settle current cases and also set aside money for future lawsuits.

The Johnson & Johnson subsidiary which now oversees talcum powder production and sales, LTL Management, filed for bankruptcy a second time this year to help finalize the latest deal, despite a federal appeals court’s decision in January that invalidated its first Chapter 11 filing, on the grounds the J&J unit was not in financial distress.

Johnson & Johnson says it has broad support for a proposed $8.9 billion settlement, a contention disputed by lawyers representing talc claimants who oppose it.

How Talcum Powder Caused Harm for Decades

For decades, Johnson & Johnson aggressively marketed talcum powder as a safe, fast, and easy way to maintain high personal hygiene standards. As far back as 1982, published studies showed the link between talcum powder and various serious illnesses, mostly ovarian cancer.

The talcum powder/cancer link may go back to when this substance is in the ground. Talc, one of the softest minerals on earth, often comes from the same place as asbestos, one of the most toxic substances on earth. Cross-contamination is common, and a single microscopic fiber could cause a host of serious illnesses. Toxic asbestos particles alter cell DNA, causing them to multiply too rapidly. The buildup causes tumors, some of which are malignant.

Researchers speculate that asbestos fibers in talc migrate through the fallopian tubes to the ovaries. These fibers not only cause tumors. They also cause inflammation, which increases the risk of ovarian cancer.

Talcum powder also causes pulmonary talcosis. Talc is also chemically similar to silica dust. These particles have been linked to a number of serious breathing diseases. Feminine talcum powder use could cause PT because, as mentioned, talc particles often migrate through the body and end up in the lungs.

However, PT is more closely associated with heroin use. Many drug dealers use talc to dilute heroin. Injecting drugs meant for oral use, such as opioids, benzodiazepines, and dextroamphetamine, could also cause this disease. Talc is present in many of these drugs and medications.

As mentioned, for decades, Johnson & Johnson knew about talcum powder risks. But the company kept selling this product anyway, mostly to protect its brand image as a family-friendly pharma conglomerate.

At first, Johnson & Johnson’s lawyers fought talc/cancer claims tooth and nail. Then, as scientific evidence and court losses mounted, the company stopped selling talcum powder. This promising development is too little and too late for talc injury victims. Houston personal injury attorneys must now force the company to accept responsibility for the many, many, many injuries it intentionally caused.

The Talc Lawsuit Explained

The link between talc and serious injury is rather straightforward. The complex talc lawsuit, however, is far from straightforward.

Tens of thousands of victims have filed talc injury lawsuits, and if the MDL judge re-opens the case to new claimants, more victims will probably come forward. 

Incidentally, such a ruling is likely. Courts have consistently held that bankruptcy is a shield, not a sword. In other words, bankruptcy is for financially stressed debtors who need relief from creditors, not for financially sound corporate shells who want to stop the legal bleeding.

These thousands of victims have slightly different stories. Therefore, the claims don’t meet the class action similarity requirement. However, courts can’t possibly handle these claims on an individual basis. Even negligent companies like Johnson & Johnson have legal rights. If the company must defend lawsuits in all fifty states, the company is clearly at an unfair disadvantage.

The Multidistrict Litigation process solves this dilemma. Officials consolidate similar cases into a single case, at least for pretrial purposes. That consolidation addresses the efficiency problem. Additionally, the judge usually appoints a special magistrate, who has specific experience in the area, to rule on many common disputes. 

This consolidation is good for defendants. It’s even better for Houston personal injury attorneys. Instead of taking on corporate lawyers in individual David vs. Goliath fashion, MDL allows victim/plaintiffs to pool their resources. Consolidation also allows victims access to a large trust fund.

Once again, incidentally, trust fund settlements usually don’t share and share alike. Victims who take the initiative to come forward and partner with a Houston personal injury lawyer understandably get a larger share of the settlement.

This settlement usually includes compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages are usually available in these claims as well. As mentioned, the defendant has usually ignored a known risk and missed their chance to do the right thing.

A talc lawsuit settlement is on the horizon, so now is the time to act. For a free consultation with an experienced talc injury attorney in Houston, contact Williams Hart & Boundas LLP. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.

Disclaimer: This material is provided for informational purposes only. The provision of this material does not create an attorney-client relationship between the firm and the reader and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this newsletter are not a substitute for legal counsel. Do not take action in reliance on the contents of this material without seeking the advice of counsel.

The information contained in this blog may or may not reflect the most current legal developments. Accordingly, information in this blog is not promised or guaranteed to be correct or complete, and should not be relied upon as such. Readers should conduct their own appropriate legal research.


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