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July 22, 2019, 11:03 a.m. EDT

Johnson & Johnson faces key test in defense against talc-safety lawsuits

Hearing that starts Monday will determine whether federal lawsuits against company will proceed to trial

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By Peter Loftus and Sara Randazzo


Getty Images/iStockphoto

Johnson & Johnson, still facing thousands of lawsuits over the safety of its signature baby powder after losing several trials, will make a high-stakes attempt to head off future losses in a courtroom battle beginning Monday.

The company /zigman2/quotes/201724570/composite JNJ -0.54%   is fighting about 14,200 claims that Johnson’s Baby Powder and other J&J talc products cause cancer. More than two dozen lawsuits have gone to trial in state courts, some resulting in eye-popping plaintiffs’ wins. That includes a July 2018 verdict by a St. Louis jury requiring J&J to pay $4.69 billion to 22 women and their families who blamed ovarian-cancer diagnoses on baby powder.

J&J says its talc products are safe and don’t cause cancer and is appealing the adverse verdicts. The company has also won several trials in state courts.

But most of the talc claims—around 12,000—are pending in federal courts, and none has been scheduled for trial. A federal judge in Trenton, N.J., Freda L. Wolfson, is overseeing coordinated pretrial proceedings of the federal talc lawsuits, in what is known as multidistrict litigation.

Before allowing any of the federal lawsuits to proceed to trial, Judge Wolfson is weighing the strength of the scientific evidence behind plaintiffs’ claims—the focus of a dayslong hearing scheduled to start in Trenton on Monday.

An expanded version of this report appears at WSJ.com.

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/zigman2/quotes/201724570/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 142.49
-0.78 -0.54%
Volume: 5.74M
July 9, 2020 4:00p
P/E Ratio
22.22
Dividend Yield
2.84%
Market Cap
$377.46 billion
Rev. per Employee
$603,509
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