New J&J talc lawsuit first to seek medical monitoring for cancer

By Julia Wray | Published: 20-Jun-2024

The proposed class action is the first to seek medical monitoring, or regular testing for female talc users to catch cancer early

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has been hit with a lawsuit seeking damages and medical monitoring on behalf of women who have been diagnosed with cancer, or might develop it in the future, as an alleged result of using J&J’s talc products.

The proposed class action, filed this week in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey, is the first to seek testing for female US talc users. 

The action is being brought by Joni Bynum, Robin Coburn and James Coburn, and on behalf of Johnson’s Baby Powder and/or Shower to Shower product users from between 1960 and the present who used the powders for genital application for more than four years. 

While this could include thousands of women, it would not include the more than 61,000 people who have already filed personal injury lawsuits over J&J's talc, claiming it contains cancer-causing asbestos.

Plaintiff Bynum does not have cancer, but, according to the filing, is at “increased risk” of developing the disease as a result of her exposure to J&J’s products and “is therefore in need of medical monitoring”. 

Robin Coburn, meanwhile, suffers from fallopian tube cancer, which she alleges was caused by genital application of J&J talc between 2012 and 2023, while her spouse James is seeking derivative claims arising from Robin’s illness. 

The new lawsuit hits amid the consultation process for J&J’s proposal to settle nearly all talc claims against it for US$6.48bn via a prepackaged bankruptcy. 

This would need support from 75% of talc claimants by the end of three-month voting period on July 26.

The same law firms behind this latest litigation are also pursuing a separate class action seeking a court order blocking the bankruptcy.

J&J has already tried and failed twice to resolve current and future talc claims through bankruptcy.

The legal strategy, known as a Texas two-step, involves creating a subsidiary – in J&J’s case LTL Management – to absorb its liability before declaring bankruptcy to settle the cases. 

Courts dismissed LTL’s Chapter 11 petition on the grounds that it lacked the "financial distress" to justify bankruptcy.

J&J maintains its talc is safe, does not contain asbestos and does not cause cancer.

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