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Johnson & Johnson offers nearly $9 billion to settle talc lawsuits

Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that it will offer at least $8.9 billion to resolve thousands of lawsuits filed by people alleging that the company's products containing talc caused cancer, quadrupling a previous offer to settle the suits.

The health and consumer goods company laid out the proposal in a news release. The suggested settlement, which is payable over 25 years, is $6.9 billion more than its previous offer in connection with a 2021 bankruptcy filing by its LTL Management unit.

Women have filed a barrage of suits in recent years alleging that J&J's baby powder gave them ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, a cancer that strikes the lungs and other organs.

More than 60,000 parties who have sued J&J are backing the proposed settlement.

"The newly announced settlement marks a significant victory for the tens of thousands of women suffering from gynecological cancers caused by J&J's talc-based products," a group of plaintiffs' law firms said in a statement. "Under the terms of the agreement, all talc claimants will be able to have their claims evaluated and assessed within one year of plan confirmation, ensuring a swift and efficient resolution for victims of the company's misconduct."

J&J continues to deny that its talcum powder poses health risks, saying that the settlement offer does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing.

"The company continues to believe that these claims are specious and lack scientific merit," Erik Haas, worldwide vice president of litigation at Johnson & Johnson, said in a statement. "However, as the bankruptcy court recognized, resolving these cases in the tort system would take decades and impose significant costs on LTL and the system, with most claimants never receiving any compensation."

The proposed settlement must now be approved by bankruptcy judge.

Attorney Brian Glasser of Bailey Glasser, who represented the committee of talc claimants, also urged the court to dismiss the LTL Management bankruptcy. 

"The last time J&J tried this they told the world that $2 billion was more than enough to satisfy these claims," he said in an email. "The $9 billion they have offered today makes plain that the prior number was ridiculous, the prior bankruptcy filing was a scam and the entire exercise was a misuse of the bankruptcy system. The court of appeals agreed, and dismissed their case. An hour or so later they found $7 billion in the company in seat cushions."

Lawsuits against J&J have contributed to declining sales for its talcum-based baby powder, and the company last year said it would stop selling the product worldwide.

J&J's stock rose 3% in after-hours trading Tuesday after the company's announcement.

With reporting by the Associated Press.

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