Levy Konigsberg Trial Attorney Jerry Block recently appeared on The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper for a special televised investigation into J&J baby powder cancer claims. The hour-long episode, “Shaken: Baby Powder on Trial,” premiered on Sunday, May 7, 2023, on CNN, will air again on Friday May 12 at 9pm EST and then be available on various streaming platforms.
As part of the investigation, CNN Correspondent Pamela Brown examined lawsuits filed by three women represented by Levy Konigsberg whose cancers were caused by J&J’s now discontinued baby powder. In 2019, the FDA confirmed the presence of asbestos in Johnson’s Baby Powder leading to J&J taking its talc-based baby powder off the market in the United States.
As noted in the show, CNN profiled just three of the tens of thousands of plaintiffs who have stepped forward with claims that their long-term use of J&J talc-based products caused their cancers. These claims, as Levy Konigsberg has asserted in numerous lawsuits filed on behalf of our clients, are based on extensive evidence that J&J talcum powder products contained asbestos, a mineral that is mined from the earth and commonly present in talc mines.
The investigation also touched on how J&J has responded to litigation – not only by denying plaintiffs’ claims and the science behind them but also by orchestrating two bankruptcy filings to protect its brand and bottom line and shield J&J from lawsuits and jury verdicts. Prior to J&J’s abusive bankruptcy filings, the company lost multiple jury verdicts including a $4.69 billion jury award for 22 women and their families.
Partner Jerry Block is featured throughout the documentary sharing insight from our firm’s representation of women and men who were diagnosed with cancer after using J&J talc products. He also shows key pieces of evidence suggesting that the company knew about asbestos contamination in its talc products for decades.
As he emphasized in the episode:
“Once we got the J&J documents, it really blew the roof off the whole situation. The documents show that the company knew that there was asbestos in Johnson’s baby powder going back to the 1950s. And specifically, there was testing done by a group called Battelle and we have one document showing in 1958 that Battelle found in Johnson’s baby powder Tremolite, and we have Battelle describing the Tremolite as fibrous, which is asbestos.”
Jerry additionally commented on FDA tests in 2019 that found asbestos in J&J products. Although the tests led J&J to recall certain lots of its talc powder products, the company worked to cast doubt on the agency’s confirmed findings based on a baseless “lab contamination” theory. As Jerry explains:
“Johnson & Johnson claims that somehow there was floating asbestos fibers that were just floating around the laboratory and that those fibers landed in the Johnson’s baby powder but somehow avoided the laboratory blanks that showed no asbestos.”
In addition to the science behind the claims, Jerry discusses how J&J purposely placed its talc liabilities into a new subsidiary company that filed for bankruptcy to shield J&J itself from litigation.
“After Elif had committed so much to the case, so much of her time so much of her energy, when the case was just getting to the point to come up for trial, J&J just exited the jury system and went over to bankruptcy and stopped her case.”
“After filing for bankruptcy, the first thing that was done by this new company was to go to the bankruptcy court and say you need to stop all the cases against Johnson & Johnson. This prevents all of the existing cases from going forward. It also prevents any new cases from being filed against the company.”
This maneuver, known as the “Texas Two-Step,” created for wealthy companies, such as J&J and Koch Industries, has been strongly criticized by lawmakers as an abuse of U.S. bankruptcy law. As the documentary suggests, it’s also a tactic that, if left unchecked, could become part of a corporate playbook for companies to escape liability and deny injured victims their 7th Amendment right to a trial by jury. As Jerry told the CNN audience:
“If Johnson & Johnson can use the bankruptcy system to get out of these cases then anyone can do it. The stakes couldn’t be higher."
The episode goes on to show Jerry speaking with his clients about the progress of the litigation, including the firm’s work fighting for a dismissal of J&J’s bankruptcy, which was rejected by the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January 2023. Jerry is seen commenting on the momentous victory:
“Today I’m feeling a sense of relief to get this decision where these judges so thoughtfully and so thoroughly said the bankruptcy code is there to protect certain companies, but only companies that really need it. If J&J could have gotten away with this, then really any wealthy company could avoid its liabilities by creating a subsidiary, putting that subsidiary into bankruptcy, and then just riding off into the sunset with all of its assets.”
The documentary provides great insight into the battles, both personal and legal, our courageous clients have faced and the work our firm and other advocates have devoted to fighting a corporation that so clearly prioritizes profits over people. It also shows that there is still work to be done. Jerry and our team were proud to be a part of this important CNN investigation and will continue to help our clients pursue justice against J&J.
“Shaken: Baby Powder on Trial,” featuring Partner Jerry Block will air again on Friday, May 12 at 9pm EST on CNN. The episode is also available to stream on CNN OTT and online at CNN.com, mobile apps, and CNNgo. You can listen to an audio showcast of the episode here.