J&J Talc Supplier Agrees to Settle 14,000 Cancer Lawsuits
Imerys SA, the exclusive talc supplier for Johnson & Johnson, has agreed to auction off its North American properties and place the proceeds in a trust to compensate cancer victims.
A co-defendant in thousands of lawsuits claiming that J&J’s talcum powder is tainted with asbestos, a known human carcinogen, Imerys will fund a bankruptcy trust with up to $132 million. In exchange for resolving past and future talc-related lawsuits, the company hopes to avoid long and potentially more costly court battles.
Many companies that sold asbestos-tainted products have reached settlements by declaring bankruptcy and establishing compensation funds. There is speculation that J&J, facing 20,000 talcum powder lawsuits, may eventually follow this route. But for the foreseeable future at least, J&J is poised to fight the cases.
Imerys Mined Talc Used in Johnson’s Baby Powder
Imerys is a mining and mineral processing company based in Paris. The world’s leading talc producer, Imerys supplies 15% of global talc demand and is the sole supplier of raw talc that J&J uses to create its talc-based powders.
Imerys recently announced a plan to resolve more than 14,000 lawsuits claiming the talc it sold to J&J caused women to develop cancer. Imerys will sell off three North American units that sought bankruptcy protection last year—Imerys Talc America, Imerys Talc Vermont, and Imerys Talc Canada—and create a talc victim compensation trust.
Imerys and J&J have been defending talc cancer lawsuits since 2014. In 2018, Imerys paid $5.5 million to 22 women claiming its talc is contaminated with asbestos. In that same case, J&J was ordered to pay $4.7 billion to the women for their ovarian cancer claims.
Imerys called the bankruptcy settlement a “Significant step for Imerys towards a permanent and final resolution of historic talc-related liabilities” that will allow it to “move forward and focus on its current operations.”
The settlement not only resolves past talc cancer claims, but also includes provisions for former J&J Baby Powder users who develop cancer in the future, according to Insurance Journal. Imerys agreed to fund the compensation trust with a minimum cash payment of $75 million, plus an additional amount based on the sale price of the auctioned assets.
How Bankruptcy Trusts Work
Bankruptcy trusts like the Imerys Talc trust allow a company to avoid litigating a large number of current and future claims, while still providing claimants a way to receive injury compensation from that company.
Although the terms of individual bankruptcy trusts differ, the trust typically establishes a payment structure for claimants who meet specific criteria. Eligible claimants must also support their claims with evidence such as medical records.
Trusts are administered by a group of independent, court-ordered third parties known as trustees. Trustees manage the trust’s finances and decide how much compensation to pay claimants.
The Imerys bankruptcy plan is still awaiting final approval from a judge, but it looks as though the trust will cover two types of claims: those alleging ovarian cancer from talc exposure, and asbestos-related respiratory cancers. Eleven plaintiffs’ attorneys are helping to set up the terms of the trust, including the kinds of injury criteria to be used, the payment structures, and protections against the trust being depleted. As one of the attorneys explained, “Anytime there’s a claim, it’s channeled into this trust.”
Trust claims are more streamlined than claims that go to court, but trusts have a limited amount of money and usually pay less than what courts award. Johns-Mansville Corp. established the first asbestos trust in 1988. Since then, dozens of trusts have been formed. They’ve paid about $20 billion to millions of claimants.
J&J Talc Lawsuits Poised to Move Ahead
While Imerys’ bankruptcy reduces the amount plaintiffs could have received from the talc company, plaintiffs are still eligible to sue Johnson & Johnson.
J&J faces around 20,000 talcum powder cancer lawsuits. More than 16,000 of those cases are part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL). Recently, a federal judge overseeing the MDL rejected J&J’s effort to have the cases thrown out. This will enable plaintiffs to move ahead in pursuing claims against J&J. Weeks after the judge’s ruling, J&J announced that it will end North American sales of talc-based baby powder.
Sanders Phillips Grossman represents approximately 700 women with ovarian cancer claims. For the past six years, our attorneys have held seminars across the country to educate women on the risks of talcum powder. Victoria Maniatis serves on the Plaintiff’s Steering Committee of the J&J MDL. Danielle Mason heads SPG’s talcum powder litigation.
If you were diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using J&J’s Baby Powder for feminine hygiene, Contact Us for a free case review.