Attorneys for clients who were injured by talc products alleged to cause cancer will find valuable allies in Congress, where members are accusing Johnson & Johnson of nefarious trickery for an illicit dance known as the Texas Two-Step.
U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) is leading the charge against the profitable corporation, and others that he claims shield assets in a legal bait-and-switch when products released into the market cause irreparable harm to consumers. Durbin argued that Johnson & Johnson parked its beleaguered talc division in a shell company now in bankruptcy to avoid consumer claims. Durbin, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke to colleagues and explained the Texas Two-Step is allowing Johnson & Johnson to shirk its responsibility to cancer victims by using bankruptcy laws to avoid paying damages. The strategy also stops victims from pleading their cases in court; delaying justice for years, presumably until victims are too sick to put up a fight any longer or until their death.
Durbin asserted in his February speech on the Senate floor that Johnson & Johnson knew its talc products contained dangerous asbestos but publicly denied it; and continued to advertise and market them to adults for personal use and as baby powder for newborns. Company documents released during discovery appear to confirm the company knew its product contained asbestos linked to cancer.
Now, Durbin said, the company is attempting to shut down more than 38,000 claims from people suffering from ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, alleging Johnson & Johnson is responsible.
In December 2021, Durbin and other senators and representatives presented Johnson & Johnson’s incoming Chief Executive Officer Joaquin Duato with a letter. They asked if he intended to continue the legal but morally questionable practice of shirking accountability to cancer victims under federal bankruptcy laws, or if he will reverse course in the name of decency and allow victims’ cases to be considered by the courts. The previous month, members of Congress had written to then-CEO Alex Gorsky for information about the company’s protocol and reasoning behind their actions when consumers are egregiously harmed.
The same Congress members behind the Johnson & Johnson letters introduced the Nondebtor Release Prohibition Act of 2021 to identify and eradicate bankruptcy loopholes that corporations have been relying on to circumvent accountability to injured consumers, including revamping the Texas Two-Step loophole.
Durbin continues to monitor the issue, dissatisfied with a response letter from Johnson & Johnson outside counsel in December 2021, which he said was a rehash of dubious claims to provide benefits to victims. He noted that struggling businesses usually file Chapter 11 bankruptcies out of desperation, but Johnson & Johnson does not fit that profile. Sales are projected to exceed $90 billion this year, and its executives have touted the company’s financial strength, Durbin said, theorizing that the company’s goal is to avoid paying compensation to victims its product has harmed.
Congress members backing Durbin’s initiative include U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12), and Chair of the Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-08).
If you are currently working on a talc-linked cancer case, our medical record retrieval service could help speed along the process and give you more time to make important inroads in the legal case.