Attorneys representing plaintiffs diagnosed with cancer in the litigation against Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) talcum powder products have urged the new judge overseeing tens of thousands of lawsuits to reject J&J’s attempt to challenge expert witness testimony that was approved two years ago by the former judge assigned to the consolidated federal cases in multidistrict litigation (MDL).
Plaintiffs in the MDL claim that J&J’s talcum powder was contaminated with asbestos and knew for decades about it, yet covered it up by manipulating scientific data. A special report published in 2018 by Reuters revealed internal documents from J&J that prove the company hid information about the contamination from regulators and the public.
The talcum powder ovarian cancer and mesothelioma lawsuits have been stayed for two years, as J&J’s controversial plan to escape the litigation by offloading its talc legal liabilities onto a newly formed subunit was being mulled over by the courts.
“After delaying this MDL litigation for nearly two years via multiple failed bankruptcy efforts, Defendants seek to further delay bellwether trials by redoing that which has already been done in this case,” talcum powder injury lawyers wrote, per Reuters.
After losing high-profile talc cancer trials, including a 2018 Missouri jury verdict that initially awarded $4.7 billion to 20 women with ovarian cancer, J&J formed an entity called LTL Management, which filed for bankruptcy protection immediately after incorporating. The move, J&J hoped, would force a settlement of more than 60,000 federal lawsuits through Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy code.
In March, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals rejected LTL Management’s bankruptcy, which called for a $2 billion global settlement to end the litigation. The court ruled that the subunit faced no real financial distress. After the ruling, J&J filed for bankruptcy protection again, this time proposing a nearly $9 billion settlement fund. A U.S. bankruptcy court judge rejected the plan in July, ruling that the bankruptcy plan was filed in bad faith.
Judge Michael Shipp is overseeing the talcum powder MDL after U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson retired earlier this year. Several plaintiffs in the MDL have died from cancer while awaiting trial with thousands of others facing a shortened lifespan because of their cancer diagnoses. Judge Wolfson ruled on which expert witnesses could testify back in 2019.
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