Johnson & Johnson, one of the most-trusted names in baby care, is facing thousands of lawsuits alleging that its talc-based baby powder of the same name caused ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. However, the company’s problems do not end there, as a separate lawsuit states that Johnson & Johnson helped fuel the State of Oklahoma’s opioid crisis.
More than 14,000 lawsuits have been filed regarding the company’s talc-based baby powder of the same name. Subpoenas from the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have also been filed. However, Johnson & Johnson Chief Financial Officer Joseph Wolk remains optimistic. On a phone call discussing the company’s earnings he told analysts that the talc-based powder is “safe” and the company acted “responsibly.”
“We’ll continue to pursue the defense of the company’s actions, as well as the product going forward,” he said.
Beginning July 22, a federal judge will evaluate expert witnesses from both Johnson & Johnson and the plaintiffs. US District Judge Freda Wolfson in Trenton, New Jersey will review studies and other evidence legal teams plan on submitting to decide what juries will hear. This process will help to ensure that expert witness testimonies are based on sound science.
Johnson & Johnson says it is challenging plaintiffs’ witnesses scientific principles, arguing that it cannot be proven that its baby powder causes cancer. It wants all 22 witnesses dismissed, along with all cases. The federal judge review could provide Johnson & Johnson with a possible way out of more than three-quarters of all outstanding baby powder suits, should she throw out expert witnesses or studies provided by the plaintiffs.
Previous concluded trials have had mixed results for Johnson & Johnson. Last year, a Missouri jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $4.6 billion to 22 women who alleged the company’s talc-based baby powders contained asbestos and caused them to develop ovarian cancer.
In a separate lawsuit, the State of Oklahoma is suing Johnson & Johnson for allegedly fueling the state’s opioid crisis. Oklahoma is accusing Johnson & Johnson of acting as the “kingpin” because it sold painkillers and grew and imported raw materials that other opioid manufacturers used.
In response to the lawsuit, Wolk said, “We agree that there’s an epidemic with opiate addiction. However, it’s going to be multiple factorial in terms of the solution set and it’s going to require many sophisticated parties to make sure that we’ve got the right remedies in place for people who suffer from that.”