Bankruptcy judge considers independent assessment of J&J cancer claims

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A bottle of Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder is seen in this photo illustration taken in New York, February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

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  • Judge Weighing Options to Rekindle Stalled Settlement Negotiations Kaplan ‘Concerned’ Over Proposals to Reopen Talc Lawsuits
  • The July 26 hearing will be a “turning point” in the case

(Reuters) – A U.S. bankruptcy judge said on Wednesday he may appoint an independent expert to assess the value of lawsuits alleging Johnson & Johnson’s talc products caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Kaplan in Trenton, New Jersey, said during a court hearing that mediation talks have so far failed to produce a workable framework for settling cancer claims, threatening to sink the case. bankruptcy of J&J’s subsidiary, LTL Management LLC, in protracted litigation. .

An independent valuation opinion could be a quicker way out of that impasse than either path proposed by the talc plaintiffs or LTL Management, Kaplan said.

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The company has proposed a one-year process to estimate the number and value of talc claims in bankruptcy court, while the plaintiffs in the talc lawsuits have asked the court to allow some of the lawsuits to resume. out of bankruptcy court.

J&J, which maintains that its baby powder and other talc products are safe, assigned its talc liabilities to a new subsidiary, LTL Management, and declared bankruptcy in October, halting 38,000 lawsuits that had been filed against J&J.

Talc plaintiffs have argued that J&J’s move was a “sham” designed to protect J&J. They have appealed Kaplan’s decision to allow the bankruptcy case to block their claims, and the US Department of Justice’s bankruptcy watchdog has upheld his position on appeal.

Kaplan will choose a path forward at a July 26 hearing that he sees as a “turning point” in the bankruptcy case.

He promised to hear from both sides at the time, but expressed “serious reservations” about the plaintiffs’ proposal. The judge said he was “concerned” that reopening some lawsuits would lead to duplicate litigation in multiple courts.

LTL’s attorney said he was open to Kaplan’s valuation proposal and was confident that mediation could still lead to a settlement.

“We haven’t lost faith in mediation at all,” said LTL attorney Greg Gordon of Jones Day.

An attorney for the talc plaintiffs, David Molton of Brown Rudnick, said he was disappointed by the lack of progress in the mediation and believed the talks could benefit from a “reset.”

Before filing for bankruptcy, J&J spent nearly $1 billion defending against talc lawsuits, with settlements and verdicts costing the company an additional $3.5 billion. One verdict awarded a sentence of more than $2 billion to 22 women, according to court records.

The case is LTL Management LLC, US Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey, No. 21-30589.

For LTL: Greg Gordon of Jones Day

For the Talc Claimants Committee: David Molton of Brown Rudnick; Melanie Cyganowski of Otterbourg; Daniel Stolz of Genoa Burns; Brian Glasser of Bailey & Glasser; Lenard Parkins of Parkins & Rubio; and Jonathan Massey of Massey & Gail

Read more:

DOJ bankruptcy watchdog sides with cancer plaintiffs in J&J talc appeal

Judge allows expedited appeal of J&J talc bankruptcy strategy

Inside J&J’s secret plan to limit litigation payouts to cancer victims

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