TRENTON, N.J. – Attorneys representing tens of thousands of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma patients who are seeking damages from Johnson & Johnson say that any proposed deal that doesn’t adequately compensate the women for medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages is a “non-starter.”
“Ovarian cancer and mesothelioma victims should and will be outraged if J&J attempts another dodge into bankruptcy,” says Andy Birchfield, of the Beasley Allen Law Firm, who heads the Mass Torts section of the Beasley Allen law firm. “J&J is seeking an extremely deep discount on justice and is not really offering anything other than another bankruptcy and more delay tactics. An $8.9 billion amount is woefully inadequate to cover even the current ovarian cancer and mesothelioma claims, much less any future claims.”
A proposed settlement announced by J&J as part of a second “Texas Two-Step” bankruptcy would seriously shortchange women who have incurred significant medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages because of J&J’s tainted and asbestos-laced talc products. Evidence uncovered during litigation revealed that the company knew that its products contained cancer-causing asbestos and concealed that information from consumers and government regulators. In response to public opinion, J&J eventually agreed to stop selling talc-based baby powder in the United States. The product is still available internationally until the end of 2023.
“This sham deal does not even pay for most victims’ medical bills,” says Jason Itkin, founding partner of the Houston-based personal injury law firm Arnold & Itkin LLP. “Medical costs alone can range from $140,000 to more than $1.4 million per victim for ovarian cancer cases. The costs for mesothelioma are even higher.”
In addition, the proposed deal does not replace wages lost while the victims are fighting cancer. The trauma and disabling nature of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma inevitably lead to job loss and lost wages. On average, a typical victim of talc loses more than $230,000 and often, more than $1 million.
J&J’s previous attempt to seek bankruptcy protection and block an estimated 50,000 claimants from seeking justice was rejected by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The full appellate court affirmed a three-justice panel ruling that the bankruptcy was not filed in good faith and should be dismissed.
A talc settlement out of bankruptcy would require approval by Chief Judge Michael Kaplan of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New Jersey and approval by 75% of all talc plaintiffs. “Johnson & Johnson doesn’t have the votes now and will never have the votes,” says Ms. O’Dell. “ J&J set aside $61.5 billion in its first bogus bankruptcy. This proposed deal represents a small fraction of that. This low-ball deal does not even pay for medical bills or wages lost due to illness.”