Johnson & Johnson agrees to $700M settlement over talcum powder safety concerns

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has agreed to pay $700 million to settle claims that it misled customers about the safety of its talcum-based powder.

Illinois Attorney General (AG) Kwame Raoul confirmed the agreement between the company and a group of 43 bipartisan AGs. According to Raoul, the settlement sought “to resolve allegations the company deceptively promoted and misled consumers in advertisements related to the safety and purity of some talcum powder products, including baby powder and body powder.” (Related: J&J will pay $700 million to 42 states in talc baby powder lawsuit, officials announce.)

“Consumers rely on accurate information when making decisions about which products to purchase for their families. Any company – no matter how large – must be held accountable when laws protecting consumers are broken and their trust is violated,” said the Prairie State’s Democratic AG. “I will continue to work to ensure consumers are protected from false advertising, scams and dangerous products in the marketplace.”

Republican Florida AG Ashley Moody lauded the move, calling it “a major advancement for consumer product safety.” Meanwhile, Democratic Maryland AG Anthony Brown said: “Certain talc-based products were marketed as safe, but some were tainted with asbestos, possibly causing serious health issues.” He added that of the $700 million payout, almost $15 million will go to the Old Line State.

Despite settlement, J&J still faces THOUSANDS of lawsuits

The settlement resolves charges that J&J misled consumers into believing its talc products, which it sold for more than a century before stopping, were safe. J&J did not admit wrongdoing in settling with the states, which were led by Florida, North Carolina and Texas, and has said its talc products are safe and do not cause cancer. The company announced a settlement in principle in January.

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Nevertheless, J&J still faces tens of thousands of talc lawsuits, and a class action accusing the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company of fraudulently hiding their dangers from shareholders.

As of March 31, about 61,490 people were still suing J&J over talc. Most were women with ovarian cancer, while a smaller number had mesothelioma, a type of cancer linked to asbestos.

J&J stopped selling talc-based baby powder globally last year, switching to corn starch as the main ingredient. It has maintained that its products do not contain asbestos.

As part of the settlement, which is still pending judicial approval, the health products giant will permanently stop the manufacturing, promotion and sale of all of its baby powder and other body and cosmetic products that contain talcum powder. That includes Johnson’s Baby Powder and Johnson & Johnson’s Shower to Shower. The company decided to pull talc-based powders off the market in North America in 2020.

J&J will make four settlement payments to the 43 parties involved starting at the end of July, according to the settlement.

In a statement, J&J’s worldwide vice president of litigation, Erik Hass, said the company “continues to pursue several paths to achieve a comprehensive and final resolution of the talc litigation.”

“That progress includes the finalization of a previously announced agreement that the company reached with a consortium of 43 state AGs to resolve their talc claims,” he continued. “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.”

J&J has twice tried to resolve the litigation by placing into bankruptcy a subsidiary it created to contain its talc liabilities, but courts rebuffed both attempts. On May 1, the New Jersey-based consumer products firm proposed a $6.48 billion settlement to resolve most of the litigation through a third bankruptcy filing. It has set aside an $11 billion reserve to cover all talc liabilities.

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Watch Jefferey Jaxen and Del Bigtree discussing J&J’s third attempt to escape legal liability through a bankruptcy filing on “The HighWire with Del Bigtree.”

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