Imerys SA has reached an agreement to turn over the operations in North America as a way to resolve numerous cancer lawsuits from consumers who have been diagnosed with cancer. The action may resolve as many as 14,000 related lawsuits.
Resolution for the Plaiintiffs
Imerys SA is the company that mines the talc which is used in various products, including Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder. The talc in these products has tested positive for the presence of asbestos, resulting in numerous lawsuits from victims of cancer.
Three divisions of Imerys will be sold at auctions and the money will be placed in a trust. The three divisions include Imerys Talc America, Imerys Talc Canada, and Imerys Talc Vermont. The funds received from the sale will be put into a trust to be distributed to victims of cancer caused by talc. All three of these units attempted to get protection through bankruptcy in 2019. The parent company didn’t file for bankruptcy.
In return, the plaintiffs will drop their lawsuits after six years of litigation. They claimed that the talc which included asbestos was the cause of many cancer diagnoses. Another claim was that the mineral itself causes a different kind of cancer. The manufacturer of the baby powder, Johnson & Johnson, is involved in almost 20,000 lawsuits because of the talc.
These lawsuits have been going on for six years with some that have gone to trial. Juries have awarded plaintiffs damages that amount to millions of dollars because the product was allegedly mishandled. Some of these awards have been reversed on appeal.
Some Claims Have Been Settled
Some claims have been settled in prior years. In one such claim, Imerys settled for $5.5 million with 22 plaintiffs who were women. Allegations stated that the talc contained asbestos. That same case, which was settled in 2018 awarded plaintiffs $4.7 million in damages from Johnson & Johnson, but the case is currently on appeal.
Plaintiffs claim that Johnson & Johnson knew that the talc in its baby powder contained asbestos as far back as the 1970s. It has also been contended that using baby powder containing talc on the genitals could lead to ovarian cancer. Both Johnson & Johnson and Imerys have denied these allegations for years. They show testing results that claim the product is safe for use. Other allegations claim that the companies marketed their products incorrectly and targeted minorities.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs believe this step will have a positive impact on other claims, calling them to find resolutions for all victims of cancer caused by talc. Bankruptcy is often a means to resolve litigation in mass-tort cases. The final numbers in the auctions will depend on how much buyers are willing to pay for the assets of the companies. The bids may include Imerys SA goal to buy back the divisions. Along with baby powder and cosmetic products, the talc mined from these companies are used in paper, plastic and ceramic products.
The plan includes provisions for those who develop cancer in the future that have used baby powder. Some insurers are still fighting cases in court to determine whether claims are covered against the mining company.