The mining company that exclusively supplied Johnson & Johnson with talc for decades is in the middle of ongoing bankruptcy proceedings that will ultimately result in payouts for more-than 25,000 plaintiffs who suffered ovarian cancer or mesothelioma related to use of talcum powder.
The most recent filing, dated August 21, indicates there were approximately 13,800 pending lawsuits from women suffering ovarian cancer and approximately 850 pending lawsuits asserting mesothelioma claims that may be affected based on when they were filed. Paris-based Imerys filed for reorganization of its North American operations February 13, 2019 under Chapter 11 of U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
Imerys will likely be required to turn over their assets from North American operations into a trust to pay debtors, including many plaintiffs with claims against Imerys. Which plaintiffs will receive payments, how much they will receive, and how long it will be before they realize a payout has yet to be determined. Based on prior corporate bankruptcy cases, it may take as long as two years after the bankruptcy trust is established for funds to be dispersed.
The bankruptcy will end litigation against Imerys that began in 2014 alleging both talc alone and asbestos-laced talc cause different types of cancer.
Internal memos have shown that J&J knew decades ago that some of its talcum powder, sold under Shower to Shower and Johnson’s Baby Powder, contained asbestos and that talc use was linked to ovarian cancer.
Despite knowing they were exposing women to risk, and knowing that there was no real benefit provided by their talc products, Johnson & Johnson continued to market talcum powder, made from talc supplied by Imerys, to women across the globe.
Asbestos and talc exist side-by-side in nature, and distinguishing them can be difficult without consistent testing. The lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and Imerys contend that Imerys failed to ensure its talc was not contaminated, putting hundreds of thousands of lives at risk.
Johnson & Johnson and Imerys have both refused to accept responsibility for their products causing cancer. Johnson & Johnson is currently appealing court rulings against them, and thousands of claims remain pending.