A federal judge has permitted a Johnson & Johnson (J&J) talc cancer trial to proceed in a California court despite a stay on approximately 38,000 similar claims. 

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Kaplan ruled that despite the stay on litigation, which is the result of J&J’s attempt to offload its talc liabilities through the U.S. bankruptcy system, the case of plaintiff Anthony Hernandez Valadez can go to trial once the California judge overseeing the case deems it ready to litigate in court. Valadez has a malignant tumor allegedly because of using J&J’s asbestos-contaminated cosmetic talc products, and may not live long enough to see his case reach trial if he has to wait for J&J to appeal the Jan. 30 ruling that rejected J&J’s bankruptcy plan. 

In 2022, J&J created a subsidiary company, LTL Management, which was ostensibly created to hold J&J’s talc liability. Shortly after LTL management was incorporated, it subsequently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  

Talc litigation centers around J&J’s failure to warn consumers that its talc products could contain trace amounts of asbestos particles and that the risk of inhaling or having the talc enter the body could cause ovarian cancer, mesothelioma or other serious illnesses.  

The ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and a more recent ruling by Judge Kaplan of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to dismiss J&J’s bankruptcy means that talc lawsuits could be back in play as soon as J&J exhausts its efforts to appeal the bankruptcy ruling, which includes a likely petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Most talc lawsuits have been filed at the federal level. J&J has spent approximately $4.5 billion in talc litigation and settlements.