J&J Talc Judge Says Legal Shield Dispute Is For Bankruptcy Court

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A bottle of Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder is seen in a photo illustration taken in New York, February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/Illustration

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  • The bankruptcy judge must now rule on the legal protection of J&J
  • The temporary shield expires on January 28

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(Reuters) – A federal judge in New Jersey said on Tuesday that a dispute over Johnson & Johnson’s legal protections from talc litigation should be decided by a bankruptcy judge.

U.S. District Chief Judge Freda Wolfson, who is overseeing much of the talc-related litigation against J&J, dismissed a request from people who sued J&J alleging its talc products cause cancer to decide whether the pharmaceutical giant is entitled to protection from such suits. while its subsidiary, LTL Management LLC, goes bankrupt.

J&J, which maintains its talc products are safe, transferred its talc responsibilities to LTL, then filed the subsidiary for bankruptcy in October. He plans to use LTL’s bankruptcy to broker a potential settlement to resolve about 38,000 talc-related claims.

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U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Kaplan, who is overseeing LTL’s bankruptcy, issued a temporary order protecting J&J from litigation, which expires Jan. 28.

A lawyer for the committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did a representative for J&J.

Chapter 11 debtors automatically have litigation protection. However, since J&J itself is not bankrupt, it needs a judge’s permission if it wants to stay the talc lawsuits so it can focus on negotiations through the bankruptcy of its subsidiary. Typically, the bankruptcy judge would make this call.

A committee that represents people who say J&J’s talc products cause ovarian cancer and mesothelioma has asked Wolfson to decide whether J&J is entitled to longer-term protection. The committee argued in court papers that since she oversees multi-district litigation where many of the talc cases are clustered together, she would be in a better position to say whether J&J should be allowed to stay all of those lawsuits in light of her familiarity with talc. complaints.

J&J disagreed, saying the underlying tort claims were irrelevant to whether litigation should be stayed pending bankruptcy.

Wolfson did not say why she declined to decide the matter, but said she would issue a decision with her reasons within the next 20 days.

Kaplan will hear arguments on the issue on January 21.

The case is In re LTL Management LLC, US Bankruptcy Court, District of New Jersey, No. 21-30589.

For LTL Management: Gregory Gordon, Dan Prieto, Amanda Rush and Brad Erens of Jones Day

For the Committee: David Molton of Brown Rudnick; Melanie Cyganowski from Otterbourg; Genova Burns’ Daniel Stolz; Brian Glasser of Bailey Glasser; Lenard Parkins by Parkins Lee & Rubio; and Jonathan Massey of Massey & Gail

Read more:

US judge temporarily suspends Johnson & Johnson’s talc business and moves it to New Jersey

J&J bankrupts talc liabilities

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