MDL Judge Freda Wolfson Will Not Decide LTL Management's New Jersey Bankruptcy Fate
New Jersey bankruptcy judge will decide if and when trials that are suspended may resume
Monday, January 17, 2022 - Chief U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson is presiding over tens of thousands of ovarian cancer lawsuits organized into multidistrict litigation (MDL) because of their similarities. The judge recently told plaintiffs who have had their talcum powder lawsuits suspended temporarily that they will have to wait until the bankruptcy judge in New Jersey makes a critical decision at the end of this month. According to Reuters, "U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Kaplan, who oversees the LTL bankruptcy (LTL Management LLC), issued a temporary order shielding J&J from litigation, which expires on Jan. 28." Judge Kaplan has been given about 30 days until the end of January to get up to speed with the controversial legal maneuver called the Texas Two-Step TTS) The TTS allows large multi-faceted corporations to spin off part of the company, presumably the one that is in trouble, into a separate business entity, and then file for bankruptcy. The move shields the parent company from the legal liabilities of failing to provide customers with an adequate talcum powder cancer warning. In the case of Johnson & Johnson, the company put the legal liabilities stemming from their talcum powder allegedly causing ovarian cancer into a separate company along with $2 billion. Johnson & Johnson has discontinued selling their iconic baby powder in North America but continues to make billions of dollars selling it throughout Asia and India. It would seem natural for the New Jersey judge to force Johnson & Johnson to include all Johnson's Baby Powder sales in the bankruptcy and then force the company to sell the assets bringing tens of billions of dollars into the trust. The money could then be used to fund an adequate settlement agreement rather than force ovarian cancer victims to settle for pennies on the dollar. The group that sought a decision on the length of the trial suspensions thought that the New Jersey MDL judge would be more qualified to render a decision because of her familiarity with the Johnson's Baby Powder Ovarian Cancer cases. Judge Wolfson conducted Daubert hearings on the matter a couple of years ago and hear scientific testimony from both sides. The judge then deliberated and investigated for six months before deciding on which scientific expert witnesses would be permitted to testify, and which ones did not hold water. At the heart of the science is whether talc itself can cause ovarian cancer. One expert who thinks so told the judge that particles of talc can enter the vagina, travel through the Fallopian tubes, and become permanently lodged in the ovaries, the dead-end of the female reproductive system. Judge Wolfson said she will give her written opinion to New Jersey bankruptcy Judge Kaplan by January 21 to help him decide on the bankruptcy matter.
It does not appear likely that Johnson & Johnson will be permitted to file for bankruptcy in the newly formed company unless their entire talcum powder business is included, at the very least. That is what happened to Imreys Inc., the sole talc supplier to Johnson & Johnson. The company declared their North American mining operation bankrupt, sold them for a couple of hundred of million dollars to Magriss Inc., and put the proceeds into a trust to pay Johnson's Baby powder cancer victims.