J&J notches a win in $50M talc lawsuit, but tens of thousands still pending

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Johnson & Johnson notches a talc lawsuit win, but still faces thousands of cases and billions in potential judgements. (Getty Images)

Johnson & Johnson notched a win Friday, with a $50 million talc lawsuit rejected in Illinois—however, tens of thousands of cases are still pending.

J&J recently reported 34,600 talc-related lawsuits have now been filed which is up from just over 20,000 last year.

The Illinois case, filed in 2018 by relatives on behalf of Elizabeth Driscoll who died from ovarian cancer in 2016, sought up to $50 million in damages. The three-week jury trial found in favor of J&J, ruling the pharma giant was not liable.

J&J said in a statement to Fierce Pharma: “Another jury, following careful consideration of the science and facts presented, has unanimously agreed that Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos and does not cause cancer."

It pointed a finger at lawyers adding "the plaintiff trial bar continues to push forward its misinformation campaign to media to drive baseless and inflammatory headlines in the hopes they can force a resolution of these cases."

RELATED: Black women's group sues J&J over targeted talc marketing—and demands new ads to counteract the old

Just last week, the judge in the case held J&J in contempt after one of its key witnesses, Susan Nicholson, M.D., J&J's VP of women’s health, failed to appear for cross-examination. The judge then removed her testimony from the record.

Beasley Allen, the law firm representing Colleen Cadagin, who is a relative of Elizabeth Driscoll, as well as other litigants in previous or pending talc litigation, said in a statement that the contempt order indicated J&J’s lack of respect for the law, judicial system, FDA and women.

The Illinois win comes on the heels of a suit by a prominent Black women’s group last week, filed on behalf of its constituents asking the courts to force J&J to create marketing efforts and fund outreach to warn Black women about the possibility of developing ovarian cancer.

J&J pulled its talc products from U.S. shelves in 2020, citing a drop-off in demand.

RELATED: Johnson & Johnson weighs talc bankruptcy as billions in legal costs pile up: report

Meanwhile, J&J is facing more than 34,000 reported cases that could add billions to its legal expenses. In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing in early 2021, J&J estimated its litigation expenses at $3.9 billion, noting the cost was “primarily associated with talc-related reserves and certain settlements.”

In another high-profile case in June, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear its appeal to overturn the decision to pay $2.1 billion in damages in a Missouri case that included 20 women or families of women who had ovarian cancer.

J&J is reportedly weighing a plan to mitigate the astronomical costs by creating a new business to absorb the legal liabilities and then seek bankruptcy protections, according to Reuters. At the time, the company said in a response to Fierce Pharma that it "has not decided on any particular course of action in this litigation other than to continue to defend the safety of talc and litigate these cases in the tort system."