Johnson & Johnson offers to pay $6.5 billion to settle talc ovarian cancer lawsuits

Johnson & Johnson offers to pay $6.5 billion to settle talc ovarian cancer lawsuits

Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday it has offered to pay $6.5 billion to settle allegations that its talc products caused cancer, a key step in the pharmaceutical giant potentially resolving decades of litigation over what was once one of the most widely used consumer products in the U.S.

The proposal is aimed at ending a protracted legal battle stemming from thousands of lawsuits that accused J&J of selling products that allegedly led women to develop ovarian cancer, in some cases causing their death. 

J&J maintains that its talc products are safe. But the company stopped selling talc-based items in 2020, and two years later announced plans to cease sales of the product worldwide.

said the proposal would settle 99.75% of the pending talc lawsuits in the U.S. The legal actions not covered by the proposal relate to mesothelioma, a rare cancer that affects the lungs and other organs. The company said it would address those suits outside the proposed settlement. 

“The Plan is the culmination of our consensual resolution strategy that we announced last October,” Erik Haas, worldwide vice president of litigation for J&J, said in a statement Wednesday. “Since then, the Company has worked with counsel representing the overwhelming majority of talc claimants to bring this litigation to a close, which we expect to do through this plan.”

Johnson & Johnson made its settlement offer as part of a bankruptcy reorganization plan for a subsidiary,  LLT Management, that J&J said would give ovarian claimants three months to vote for or against the plan. 

Attorneys for the plaintiffs dismissed the settlement offer, saying “would cheat victims legitimately harmed by talc.”

“We believe any bankruptcy based on this solicitation and vote will be found fraudulent and filed in bad faith under the Bankruptcy Code,” Andy Birchfield, head of the Mass Torts Section at the Beasley Allen Law Firm, said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch. “On behalf of our clients who deserve better, we are blowing the whistle on this cynical legal tactic and will resist it at every turn.”

Megan Cerullo