Talc Baby Powder Litigation

Firm: Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

Issue Area: Pharma and Tobacco

Case summary

Skadden represents Johnson & Johnson in a lawsuit alleging that its baby powder caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. In 2020, Johnson & Johnson discontinued their talc-based baby powder a year after the FDA announced they found asbestos in a powder sample. Over 40,000 cancer patients sued claiming that the powder caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. To avoid liability, lawyers from Skadden created a subsidiary and transferred all potential liability to it. The subsidiary then filed for bankruptcy, blocking just compensation for Johnson & Johnson’s victims. While the plaintiffs' medical bills skyrocket and some die, Skadden’s work is celebrated. Skadden’s Allison Brown was named American Lawyer’s 2022 Litigator of the year for her work “achiev[ing] success against all odds” and “quick pivot” from trial court to bankruptcy court when Johnson & Johnson used the so-called "Texas two-step" to move the claims against it into bankruptcy. “I think there are a lot of times when it makes sense to put your evidence and put your case on in front of the jury,” Brown says. “But I think if you truly are going to be the best advocate for your client, there are many instances where there are other more efficient, more effective ways to resolve litigation disputes.”