U.S. court rejects J&J bankruptcy strategy for tens of thousands of talc lawsuits

U.S. court rejects J&J bankruptcy strategy for tens of thousands of talc lawsuits

Jan 30 (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court upended Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ.N) try to dump into bankruptcy tens of thousands of lawsuits over its talc merchandise, ruling the healthcare conglomerate improperly positioned a subsidiary into Chapter 11 proceedings despite the fact that it didn’t face monetary misery.

The resolution by the U.S. third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia on Monday dismissed a Chapter 11 petition filed by a just lately created J&J subsidiary in October to handle greater than 38,000 lawsuits from plaintiffs alleging the corporate’s child powder and different talc merchandise brought about most cancers.

Before the bankruptcy, J&J confronted prices from $3.5 billion in verdicts and settlements, together with one through which 22 ladies have been finally awarded a judgment of greater than $2 billion, in response to bankruptcy-court information.

Several main firms, together with J&J and 3M Co (MMM.N), have turned to bankruptcy court to handle their mass tort liabilities. Plaintiff attorneys have known as the instances an improper manipulation of the bankruptcy system, whereas the businesses say the Chapter 11 filings are aimed toward compensating claimants pretty and equitably.

J&J’s maneuver is called a Texas two-step for a state regulation used to create a subsidiary that shoulders litigation after which declares bankruptcy. The Third Circuit’s opinion permits talc litigation to renew towards the corporate.

J&J stated it could problem the ruling and that its talc merchandise are protected.

Its shares fell greater than 3% – the most important one-day proportion decline in two years.

The New Jersey-based firm, valued at greater than $400 billion, stated its subsidiary’s bankruptcy was initiated in good religion and designed to equitably resolve talc claims for the profit of all plaintiffs. J&J initially pledged $2 billion to the subsidiary to resolve talc claims and entered into an settlement to fund an eventual settlement accepted by a bankruptcy choose.

A 3-judge panel on the appeals court rejected J&J’s argument, discovering the corporate’s subsidiary, LTL Management, was created solely to entry the bankruptcy system and never as a result of it confronted monetary misery.

“Good intentions – comparable to to guard the J&J model or comprehensively resolve litigation – don’t suffice alone,” the judges stated in a 56-page opinion.

The resolution throws into doubt J&J’s long-planned strategy for disposing of talc litigation after it misplaced a bid to reverse a watershed verdict that finally awarded greater than $2 billion to 22 ladies who blamed their ovarian most cancers on child powder and different talc merchandise.

More than 1,500 talc lawsuits have been dismissed with out J&J having to pay something, and the bulk of instances which have gone to trial have resulted in protection verdicts, mistrials or judgments for the corporate on attraction, in response to the J&J subsidiary’s court filings.


A December 2018 Reuters investigation revealed that the corporate knew for a long time of assessments displaying its talc typically contained traces of carcinogenic asbestos however stored that data from regulators and the general public.

“As now we have stated from the start of this course of, resolving this matter as shortly and effectively as attainable is in the very best pursuits of claimants and all stakeholders,” J&J stated in a press release. “We proceed to face behind the security of Johnson’s Baby Powder, which is protected, doesn’t comprise asbestos and doesn’t trigger most cancers.”

Facing unrelenting litigation, J&J enlisted regulation agency Jones Day, which had helped different firms execute Texas two-step bankruptcies to handle asbestos lawsuits.

J&J’s effort, which Reuters detailed final yr, was internally dubbed “Project Plato”, and staff engaged on it signed confidentiality agreements warning them to inform nobody, together with their spouses, concerning the plan.

The Texas two-step strategy has garnered criticism from Democratic lawmakers, and impressed laws that might severely limit the follow.

Jones Day didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

Critics contend the strategy is an improper use of the bankruptcy system by solvent companies wishing to flee jury trials in state courts. Bankruptcy filings usually pause litigation, forcing plaintiffs into usually time consuming settlement negotiations whereas leaving them unable to pursue their instances within the courts the place they initially sued.

“Bankruptcy courts are for sincere firms in monetary misery, not billionaire mega-corporations like J&J,” stated Jon Ruckdeschel, a lawyer representing talc plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs and different authorized consultants urged U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Kaplan final yr to dismiss the J&J subsidiary’s bankruptcy, arguing it was filed in unhealthy religion and risked turning into a blueprint for massive companies in search of to keep away from undesirable litigation.

Kaplan, although, denied the request, discovering the J&J unit did face monetary misery and {that a} bankruptcy court was a greater discussion board for resolving the litigation then America’s tort system.

Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Mike Spector in New York; and Dan Levine and San Francisco; Additional reporting by Dietrich Knauth and Chuck Mikolajczak in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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