Johnson & Johnson tried to blame its decision to stop selling talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in the United States and Canada on the coronavirus pandemic. But legal scholars and attorneys representing clients who say the talc J&J uses is contaminated with asbestos and other impurities that can cause consumers to develop cancer suspect COVID-19 isn’t the real reason.

They believe the consumer health care giant is discontinuing sales of its iconic baby powder because the company knows it hit a major roadblock when a judge overseeing the talc multidistrict litigation cleared the way for plaintiffs’ experts to testify in potentially thousands of lawsuits.

Johnson & Johnson made its announcement on May 19, about three weeks after U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson refused to throw out five plaintiffs’ experts.

“The decision was the tipping point, saying we just can’t keep racking up civil liability exposure in the tens of millions dollars,” David Logan, professor at Roger Williams University School of Law told Law.com. “You may be willing to litigate an issue for a while, and rack up some victories, but if you’re getting losses, you’ve got to constantly calibrate, what is the wise strategy going forward? That’s not just a legal decision. That’s really a business decision.”

Johnson & Johnson has shelled out plenty of money for legal expenses and advertising to dispel the mounting claims that its talcum powder is linked to ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. The company faces thousands of lawsuits in state and federal court, and has faced multi-million-dollar verdicts in several that have gone to trial.

In October, Johnson & Johnson recalled about 33,000 bottles of its baby powder after testing by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found traces of asbestos — a known carcinogen — in some samples.

Beasley Allen lawyers Ted Meadows and Leigh O’Dell are heading up the team handling claims of ovarian cancer linked to talcum powder use for feminine hygiene. Our attorneys are also handling mesothelioma claims. They are looking at cases of industrial, occupational and secondary asbestos exposure resulting in lung cancer or mesothelioma as well as claims of asbestos-related talc products linked to mesothelioma.

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