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Federal Judge Denies J&J Request to Move 2,400 Asbestos Cancer Cases Out of State Court

A Delaware federal judge recently denied a request by pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson to remove thousands of asbestos cancer lawsuits from various state courts and place them all under the purview of a single jurisdiction. Johnson & Johnson made the request after its co-defendant and talc supplier in the lawsuits, Imerys Talc USA, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection under the weight of the litigation the two companies faced.

Johnson & Johnson had sought to invoke legal protections afforded to Imerys as a means to collect the estimated 2,400 talcum powder lawsuits under one federal judge and form a single defense strategy. Those claims alleged that Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc USA were responsible for the plaintiffs’ injuries due to the presence of asbestos fibers about which the two defendants knew but failed to provide any warnings to consumers.

Fortunately for the plaintiffs, who have yet to have their day in court, the judge hearing the motion denied Johnson & Johnson’s request. In her ruling the judge noted that “J&J cannot establish an emergency” tied to Imerys’ bankruptcy-reorganization effort. The judge went on to note that “J&J’s desire to centralize its own state-law litigation does not justify the finding of an emergency” requiring immediate transfer.

With Imerys’ bankruptcy filings, Johnson & Johnson has been left as the sole defendant in the talcum powder cancer lawsuits, which could subject the company to heightened financial risk with no other parties facing liability. Johnson & Johnson faces an estimated 14,000 total talcum powder cancer lawsuits across the country, many in federal court awaiting the decisions of judges whether or not to send the cases back down to state courts for trial.

While the talcum powder lawsuits allege a whole host of injuries as a result of using talc-based products produced by Johnson & Johnson, many of the claims allege that the plaintiffs developed mesothelioma cancer due to the presence of asbestos in the products. Asbestos was once commonly used in a variety of industrial, commercial, and military applications for its heat resistant properties but has been heavily regulated since the 1970s when the federal government enacted legislation.

Both talc and asbestos are naturally occurring minerals and can be found in deposits side by side one another. If mining companies do not exercise due caution when mining talc, asbestos contamination can take place and put innocent people at risk for exposure to the deadly carcinogen. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer directly associated with asbestos exposure and has no known cure at this point in time.

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