New York AG James announces $700 million settlement with Johnson & Johnson over talcum powder cancer claims

 June 12, 2024

For years, if not decades, cosmetics and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has been accused of using cancer-causing talcum in its Baby Powder and other products, which resulted in tens of thousands of lawsuits filed by individuals and states and even threats of criminal prosecution against the company.

On Tuesday, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that a multi-state coalition had reached a $700 million settlement agreement with J&J, of which the Empire State will receive approximately $44 million.

Notably, the company did not admit any guilt or concede any of the cancer-related allegations as part of the arrangement, though it did agree to no longer manufacture, market, or distribute any products containing talc -- which it had already stopped doing in 2020.

AG touts settlement win against J&J

"Targeting communities with cosmetic products that contain dangerous substances is not just illegal, it is very cruel," AG James said in a statement about the settlement reached with Johnson & Johnson over allegations that its products containing talc, which was allegedly contaminated with asbestos, was linked to certain types of cancer.

"No amount of money can undo the pain caused by Johnson & Johnson’s talc-laced products, but today families can rest assured that the company is being held accountable for the harm it caused, and its dangerous products will no longer be on shelves in New York," she added. "Those that prey on our communities, hurt their health, and violate our laws will be met with the full force of my office."

The attorney general's press release included a link to the court-approved 35-page consent order and judgment that finalized a settlement agreement reached between a 43-state coalition and J&J several months earlier.

It was specifically noted that the order and judgment were accepted "without trial or adjudication of any issue of fact or law, and without finding or admission of wrongdoing or liability of any kind."

The document also outlined how starting in July and continuing annually through 2027, J&J would pay out the $700 million settlement with the 43 states in four installments of $175 million each, with New York receiving four payments of $10-11 million each for its part of the deal.

Company seeks to resolve all talc claims "through litigation or settlement"

AFP reported that Johnson & Johnson Worldwide Vice President of Litigation Erik Haas said in a statement that the company "continues to pursue several paths to achieve a comprehensive and final resolution of the talc litigation," which includes "the finalization of a previously announced agreement that the company reached with a consortium of 43 State Attorneys Generals to resolve their talc claims."

It was further noted that an $8.9 billion proposal was made in April 2023 to settle all of the tens of thousands of individual and state claims against J&J, with the company paying out that settlement over 25 years, but that plan was rejected by a bankruptcy judge.

Instead, Haas added, "We will continue to address the claims of those who do not want to participate in our contemplated consensual bankruptcy resolution through litigation or settlement."

AFP noted that though there have long been allegations J&J's products contained asbestos-contaminated talc that was linked to ovarian cancer, a summary of studies involving more than 250,000 women that was published in 2020 failed to find any statistical link between talc powder and ovarian cancer.

James' prior multi-million dollar lawsuit settlements with J&J

This is not AG James's first victorious battle against Johnson & Johnson, as her Tuesday press release highlighted a $117 million settlement reached in 2019 between the company and 42 states including New York.

People magazine also reported in 2021 that J&J agreed to pay New York $230 million, plus an additional $33 million in attorney fees and court costs, to settle a lawsuit over addictive and deadly opioid drugs the pharmaceutical company previously sold -- albeit without admitting any fault or liability.

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