Johnson & Johnson (J&J) lost its motion to provisionally transfer 2,400 personal injury and wrongful death suits over asbestos-containing talc powder products to Delaware federal court when a judge found that the company failed to establish that transfer was warranted. J&J had argued in April that the suits pending in state and federal courts alleging its talc contained asbestos should be transferred to Delaware, where its talc supplier, Imerys Talc, had filed for bankruptcy. The company argued that moving the cases to Delaware would streamline the resolution of the claims.
The personal injury and wrongful death claims allege Johnson & Johnson’s talc products caused serious illnesses, including mesothelioma and ovarian cancer, and death. On May 9, U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika said J&J has not met “the burden for immediate, ex parte relief, which is rarely granted.” J&J hasn’t filed for bankruptcy and hasn’t established that it’s in financial distress, the judge said. “Notably, the debtors themselves have not moved for transfer of venue or sought expedited relief,” Judge Noreika stated. This ruling means that the talc cases will stay put while Judge Noreika considers J&J’s motion to transfer and makes an ultimate ruling.
Judge Noreika also said J&J can’t show it is faultless in having created the apparent emergency from which it now claims it needs immediate relief. “J&J has been a Defendant in the underlying state court litigation for years,” Judge Noreika said. “J&J is responsible for the multiplicity and timing of removal and the ensuing remand motions.”
J&J made the venue transfer request under judicial procedure laws that allow personal injury tort and wrongful death claims to be shifted to the district court in the district where the bankruptcy case was filed. That procedural rule applies to cases where a non-debtor entity that has a close financial relationship with the debtor can seek relief, as Johnson & Johnson claimed it has with Imerys Talc. The close relationship between the parties goes back to 1989 when Johnson & Johnson sold off the entities that would later become the debtors, the motion said.
Imerys and two affiliates filed for Chapter 11 on Feb. 13 with plans to set up a trust to cover liabilities they face in connection with the litigation that has been instituted against Imerys, J&J, and other parties over the past few years related to talc that contained cancer-causing asbestos. Imerys said it has been sued by about 14,650 individual claimants.
The Plaintiffs are represented by Beasley Allen Crow Methvin Portis & Miles PC, and Levy Konigsberg LLP, Cohen Placitella & Roth PC, among others. The case is In re: Imerys Talc America Inc., (case number 1:19-mc-00103) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. The bankruptcy case is In re: Imerys Talc America Inc. et al., (case number 1:19-bk-10289) in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.
Beasley Allen lawyers are proud to be fighting for individuals who have been exposed to asbestos and later developed the disease. These diseases not only impact the person exposed, but also families and friends. Our firm promotes our best efforts to seek justice for these individuals. If you have any questions or have been exposed to asbestos and developed mesothelioma or lung cancer, contact us via our contact form below. We can also be reached by phone at 800-898-2034.
This story appears in the June issue of The Jere Beasley Report. For more like it, or to subscribe, visit the Report online.