Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Lawsuits Prompt J&J Decline
Talc Cancer Litigation Results in Financial Woes
Friday, May 10, 2019 - In February of 2019, Imerys Talc America and two of its subsidiaries, Imerys Talc Vermont and Imerys Canada Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in order to put to rest an onslaught of lawsuits it faces in the United States. The company said it expected no major changes in the operation of the company.
Imerys Talc America, Inc. is currently facing 14,000 lawsuits in the United States related to allegations that its raw talc, used in cosmetic products, causes cancer. Most of these are talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits, filed by and on behalf of women who allege their use of talc-based products for feminine hygiene resulted in ovarian cancer. Others have been filed by persons who allege the talc contained asbestos and caused mesothelioma.
Imerys Talc America is a subsidiary of the French company Imerys SA. In 2011, Imerys acquired Luzenac Group from Rio Tinto. Luzenac Group has historically been the world’s leader in talc extraction and processing; Imerys Talc America accepted liability for Luzenac’s talc extraction when it acquired the company. Imerys and Luzenac have been Johnson & Johnson’s chief supplier of raw talc for decades, and Imerys has become a central defendant in talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits.
Imerys Talc America stock reached a low for the year in December of 2018, when Reuters published an in-depth investigative piece revealing decades of concealment of talcum powder cancer risks by talcum powder manufacturers and producers. Citing internal company memos, undisclosed asbestos test results, and other previously unknown evidence, this article brought the evidence seen by jurors to the public. Time and time again, jurors are siding with plaintiffs and awarding compensation ranging from $55 million to $4.7 billion on behalf of cancer victims and their loved ones.
Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest independent biotech company (market cap $346.1 billion) is comparatively a much larger corporation than Imerys Talc America (market cap $3.61 billion). While the cost of settlements and verdicts is unlikely to make a dent in the company’s financial outlook, the Reuter’s article did result in a significant decline in J&J stock values. Shares slipped again when J&J was ordered by a California jury to pay $29 million in March of 2019 to resolve a talc asbestos lawsuit. No doubt the company will continue to see a reflection in its stock value as it weathers thousands of future talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits.
Talc is a raw mineral that is mined from deposits globally. It is used in a variety of industrial, household, and cosmetic applications. Largely unregulated for cosmetic applications, talc-based products have come under fire as consumers learn about the presence of asbestos in talc. Asbestos is a known carcinogen. Medical researchers believe that the presence of talc in the female reproductive system causes an inflammatory response. Inflammation is a risk factor for the proliferation of cancer cells. Ovarian cancer, though rare, is a particularly dangerous disease in that it is nearly undetectable in its early stages because it has few, if any, obvious symptoms. Often, ovarian cancer is only diagnosed in later stages when it has spread throughout the pelvic or abdominal region.