A U.S. bankruptcy judge has blocked New Mexico and Mississippi from pursuing lawsuits accusing Johnson & Johnson misleading consumers about the safety of its talc products, such as its baby powder, for now.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Kaplan in Trenton, New Jersey on Tuesday said the litigation must be paused while an appellate court reviews whether J&J can use the bankruptcy of subsidiary LTL Management to resolve claims it is facing that its talc products caused cancer. He said he would revisit allowing the states’ lawsuits to proceed at a hearing in December.
J&J, which maintains its talc products are safe, created and spun off LTL in October, assigned its talc liabilities to the unit and placed it ina few days later.
That restructuring strategy, known as the “,” paused about 38,000 individual lawsuits J&J was facing alleging that its baby powder and other talc-based products contain trace amounts of asbestos and caused mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.
The offices of the New Mexico and Mississippi Attorneys General did not immediately respond to requests for comment. J&J also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
LTL sued New Mexico and Mississippi in July after learning that the states intended to proceed with their lawsuits, despite the bankruptcy court’s order in February pausing other talc litigation.
New Mexico and Mississippi had argued that the February order only blocked lawsuits by private plaintiffs and that Kaplan does not have the authority to block states from enforcing their consumer protection laws.
An ad hoc group of 41 states and the District of Columbia backed New Mexico and Mississippi in a written brief. Unlike with the private plaintiffs, allowing states to litigate would not risk opening the doors to copycat lawsuits that could disrupt LTL’s bankruptcy restructuring, according to the states.
Attorneys representing private plaintiffs also supported the New Mexico and Mississippi lawsuits, saying they could provide clarity about the value of states’ claims and aid in settlement negotiations.
The private plaintiffsthe Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss LTL’s bankruptcy, saying that LTL is a “concocted” corporation set up solely to stop them from getting their day in court.
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