A Third J&J Bankruptcy Attempt Won’t Resolve Victims’ Talc Claims

In my many years as an attorney seeking to protect consumers from defective products, I’ve never felt a responsibility as heavy as the one I bear for the thousands of women suffering from ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, conditions linked to Johnson & Johnson’s tainted talc products. The profound pain and suffering they and their families endure is immeasurable.

Dozens of peer-reviewed scientific studies have revealed the correlation between talc use and these devastating diseases, with evidence pointing to the disturbing presence of asbestos, a notorious carcinogen, within talc.

Rather than acknowledge the mounting scientific evidence and provide fair compensation to the victims, J&J resorted to evasion and legal trickery.

By adopting the disreputable and now notorious Texas Two-Step bankruptcy strategy, J&J did a major disservice to both victims and J&J shareholders.

If the company’s bankruptcy scheme had succeeded, it would’ve been a gross miscarriage of justice. Victims would be robbed of their rightful day in court and forced to accept grossly inadequate compensation.

This maneuver by J&J was a gamble on perceived vulnerabilities within our multi-district litigation system. The wheels of justice often turn slowly, and J&J’s bankruptcy strategy brought the process to a screeching halt.

J&J expected cancer victims and families would lose heart and capitulate to a pennies-on-the-dollar offer of compensation. But the company underestimated their resolve.

Our commitment is unwavering. Our duty as attorneys is to seek justice for those wronged. During our long legal battle, we have continuously engaged in discussions with J&J to find a fair settlement for the victims.

It’s now clear that J&J is unwilling to negotiate in good faith as long as it has the weapon of bankruptcy—stopping all jury trials—at its disposal. This is evident from J&J’s first two bankruptcy endeavors.

Bankruptcy is designed as a haven for businesses genuinely struggling and seeking a fresh start. But it becomes a means to evade responsibility when weaponized by immensely profitable corporations such as J&J. Such entities misuse the powerful tools that bankruptcy provides, bypassing the checks and balances of a jury trial.

This absence of accountability allows them to act with increasing impunity, disregarding the very lives their products have devastated. In the hands of behemoths such as J&J, bankruptcy morphs into abuse of the legal protections upon which we all rely.

With J&J signaling a third bankruptcy filing, we should draw a line in the sand and commit to never again negotiate in bankruptcy on behalf of these deserving cancer victims.

They and their families deserve better than for us to accede to negotiate in an arena where the corporate giant has all the advantages. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to reach a just and fair resolution outside of bankruptcy. We must “bomb the bridges and burn ships” in our quest for justice.

By remaining steadfast, we can challenge and triumph over corporations that value their bottom lines more than the people their products impact.

For every victim, for every grieving family, and in the pursuit of a just world where corporate accountability isn’t just a phrase but a practice, we will stand undeterred. The tenets of our civil justice system demand that we do no less.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg Industry Group, Inc., the publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.

Author Information

Andy Birchfield manages mass torts at the Beasley Allen Law Firm, with focus on pharmaceutical litigation, including on behalf of talc claimants against Johnson & Johnson.

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