Imerys Talc America, the supplier for Johnson & Johnson’s talc-containing products, has filed for bankruptcy because of its involvement in lawsuits in the U.S. alleging its talc causes ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

Two other subsidiaries of Paris-based Imerys SA – Imerys Talc Vermont and Imerys Talc Canada Inc. – have also filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware. Under the terms of the bankruptcy, Imerys proposes to establish a fund to cover current and future lawsuits. Imerys faces more than 14,600 lawsuits over cancer risks.

“After carefully evaluating all possible options, we determined pursuing Chapter 11 protection is the best course of action to address our historic talc-related liabilities and position the companies for continued growth,” said Giorgio La Motta, Imerys Talc America’s president in a statement.

Ted Meadows, who heads up the talc litigation team for Beasley Allen, said, “This announcement by Imerys speaks to the serious nature of this ongoing litigation and the negligence and culpability the company has in supplying a cancer-causing product to consumers around the world. We expect the manufacturing, distribution and marketing of talc in all its forms to receive ever-increasing scrutiny by regulatory and public health agencies, as well as in the courts. Given those developments, this action is yet another defensive attempt to avoid responsibility and deny compensation to very sick women and their surviving families but validates the claims these brave claimants have been making for the past several years.”

Imerys’ America and Vermont units have combined assets of up to $500 million and liabilities nearing $100 million, according to the bankruptcy filing.

Imerys Talc America has been named in thousands of lawsuits alongside Johnson & Johnson. The companies knew for decades that their talc could cause ovarian cancer and mesothelioma through J&J products like Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder. In fact, Imerys for decades has placed a cancer warning on the containers of talc shipped to J&J.

Wall Street Journal

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