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Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky recently appeared in a New Brunswick, New Jersey courtroom to testify in a talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuit brought by four plaintiffs who claim they developed a serious form of cancer from years of using one of the company’s most iconic products. The talcum powder lawsuit alleges that the plaintiffs developed mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure from using Johnson & Johnson products like Baby Powder and Shower to Shower while the pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant knew about the risk posed to consumers but chose not to provide any safety warnings on the products.

During his testimony, Gorsky indicated that he relied on company experts when he announced on national television that Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos and was safe for consumers to use. Despite Gorsky claiming that he did not have firsthand knowledge of the science behind Baby Powder risks, revelations have surfaced in recent months that the company knew for decades about possible risks and that the company still chose to market its products to vulnerable and marginalized communities.

Furthermore, Johnson & Johnson was forced to issue a recall of 33,000 bottles of Baby Powder after independent testing conducted on behalf of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discovered the presence of asbestos fibers in the product lot. Those tests have since spurred Congressional oversight committees to call for standardized testing methods and terminology to dispel ambiguity about how results are interpreted and ensure the public at large is protected from products containing deadly asbestos.

Johnson & Johnson’s long time talc supplier is reportedly shopping the sale of its North American talc operations after filing for bankruptcy under the weight of thousands of asbestos cancer lawsuits in which the company was enjoined with the pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant. Those lawsuits, which thus far have produced billions in plaintiffs verdicts, claim that Johnson & Johnson and Imerys produced and marketed talc-based products like Baby Powder and Shower to Shower which contained deadly asbestos fibers and caused the victims’ debilitating and often fatal health conditions.

Among the assets up for supposed sale, Imerys is reported to consider selling strategic alternatives that could include the sale of business in North America as a whole. In February 2019, Imerys filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, citing that the company was facing more than 14,000 lawsuits in the United States at the time. Reports stress that deliberations are still at an early stage and that no final decisions have been reached as of yet.

The reports are significant in that the proceeds from the sale of Imerys’ North American talc operations could be used to fund settlements of talcum powder cancer lawsuits, through some form of a trust. To do so, Imerys would ultimately need to negotiate with creditors, which would include insurers and those parties involved in asbestos cancer lawsuits.

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