Tens of thousands of people suing Johnson & Johnson may get some relief after the company announced Tuesday that it will pay $8.9 billion to settle lawsuits that have been going for more than a decade.
The settlement would be paid out over 25 years and Johnson & Johnson’s LTL Management subsidiary filed for bankruptcy to enable the payment, the company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The bankruptcy court must first approve the plan, which would settle all current and future claims about the company’s talcum powder products, The New York Times reported.
It is not an admission of wrongdoing because the claims still “are specious and lack scientific merit,” Erik Haas, vice president of litigation at J&J, said in a company news release.
“Resolving this matter through the proposed reorganization plan is both more equitable and more efficient, allows claimants to be compensated in a timely manner and enables the company to remain focused on our commitment to profoundly and positively impact health for humanity,” Haas added.
Lawyers for nearly 70,000 plaintiffs said the deal was a “significant victory for the tens of thousands of women suffering from gynecological cancers caused by J&J’s talc-based products,” the Times reported.
Not all the lawyers have approved of the settlement. Jason Itkin, whose law firm represents 10,000 cases, called the settlement “bad for victims” and thought it would be blocked in court or not have enough claimants to approve it, the Times reported.
“Even though $8.9 billion sounds like a lot of money, when you spread it out it comes out to not very much at all for the people who suffered,” Itkin said.
If the proposed settlement does go forward, it would bring an end to the lawsuits filed by families affected by cancers, including those whose loved ones died of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.
The company plans to stop selling the product globally this year, after announcing in 2020 it would stop selling the products in the United States. It plans to sell a cornstarch alternative, while also splitting its consumer products into a different company it will call Kenvue. This includes brands like Neutrogena and Tylenol. It will be separate from J&J’s pharmaceutical and medical divisions.
This new plan will “provide expeditious, substantial and fair compensation to claimants who cannot afford to wait any longer for a resolution,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers said, according to the Times.
The American Cancer Society has more on asbestos and cancer risk.
SOURCE: The New York Times
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