J&J Accused of Exposing Workers to Asbestos

Johnson & Johnson has failed to convince a judge that a lawsuit alleging that the company exposed its workers to asbestos should be dismissed. In the midst of battling tens of thousands of talcum powder lawsuits, on April 12, J&J appealed to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Kaplan to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the family of a man who worked in J&J’s talc mines, according to Bloomberg.

According to the family of a former employee of Windsor Minerals, in 1986 the employee intended to sue J&J for asbestos exposure while working in their talc mine. Talc and asbestos are similarly structured minerals that form close together naturally. The employee later dropped his suit when J&J produced sworn testimony claiming that no tests ever showed that the company’s industrial talc contained asbestos, according to court documents. That employee died eight years later.

Since that lawsuit, there has been new evidence, including a 2019 recall, that has shown that J&J’s talc has been contaminated with asbestos. The lawsuit filed by the Windsor Minerals employee’s family alleges that the original 1986 lawsuit and thousands like it were dismissed, dropped, or denied due to false testimony from Johnson & Johnson claiming that there was no evidence of asbestos in their talcum powder. With this new evidence, the employee’s family is suing J&J again.

Johnson & Johnson has currently managed to pause more than 40,000 lawsuits filed by women who allegedly used asbestos-contaminated talcum powder and developed ovarian cancer. For this reason, the company argued, the former employee’s lawsuit should be preempted by the bankruptcy of their subsidiary, LTL management, and should be prevented from proceeding. Judge Kaplan, however, disagreed with J&J’s arguments and stated that the case alleging J&J concealed evidence was sufficiently different from the current cases awaiting the bankruptcy decision to go forward.

Kaplan’s decision does leave some avenues for the case to be halted under different reasoning, but for now, Johnson & Johnson has announced that they intend to fight the case, stating, “We stand by the safety of the talc sold by Windsor Minerals, which was once a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary. The company was later sold to a non-J&J entity in the late 1980s. Johnson & Johnson denies the claims brought forth in this suit and will defend the case if it proceeds.”

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