Judge Reports Threats, Harassment Following J&J Talc Bankruptcy

A bottle of Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder. REUTERS/Mike Segar/Illustration

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  • Judge exposed harassment during hearing on J&J subsidiary’s efforts to block consumer protection lawsuits from two states

(Reuters) – A U.S. bankruptcy judge said on Wednesday he had received threats related to the bankruptcy of a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary he oversees, with some postings suggesting the case is an effort to “cover up” harm allegedly caused by J&J’s talc. some products.

U.S. Chief Bankruptcy Judge Michael Kaplan in Trenton, New Jersey, told a hearing he and his staff received angry and threatening messages through phone calls, voicemails , emails and social media posts since its February decision not to dismiss LTL’s bankruptcy case. Management LLC.

J&J created the subsidiary in October, handed over its talc responsibilities to it, and filed for bankruptcy days later, in a bid to resolve about 38,000 lawsuits alleging its baby powder and other products to talc base caused mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.

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J&J, which has denied the allegations and said its products are safe, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Kaplan didn’t say how many threats the court had received or who they came from, but cited a specific tweet from August that called it a “murder cover-up” and included a vague threat that “your day is coming. ” for exemple.

The judge said he admired the lawyers’ ‘zealous advocacy on emotionally charged issues’ on the case, but asked them to ‘be mindful of the words’ they are using, warning them that overheated rhetoric can invite harassment and undermine the justice system.

Kaplan pointed to a recent filing by plaintiffs’ attorneys that bankruptcy court jurisdiction was “not for sale,” saying it unfairly implied that he personally benefited from LTL’s bankruptcy.

Clay Thompson of Maune Raichle Hartley French & Mudd, the company that filed the case, said the threats were “despicable”. The “not for sale” rhetoric was not aimed at Kaplan personally, but was aimed at criticizing J&J’s strategy of using the bankruptcy system to block cancer lawsuits, Thompson said.

Kaplan’s remarks came during a hearing to examine New Mexico and Mississippi’s attempt to pursue their states’ lawsuits accusing J&J of misleading consumers about the cancer risks associated with herbal products. talc.

The states argued that they were not bound by an earlier court ruling that halted private plaintiff lawsuits in LTL’s bankruptcy. Kaplan does not have the power to stop states from enforcing their consumer protection laws, state attorney Robert Malone said Wednesday.

LTL attorney Gregory Gordon countered that the state lawsuits are “inextricably linked” to talc’s private claims, saying they all must be halted to allow LTL time to reach a restructuring agreement.

J&J set aside $2 billion to resolve talc claims in bankruptcy and argued that the bankruptcy case offers a fairer and faster way to resolve all cancer-related claims than pursuing litigation in other courts.

The case is LTL Management v. State of New Mexico, US Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey, No. 22-01231

For LTL: Gregory Gordon of Jones Day

For New Mexico and Mississippi: Robert Malone of Gibbons

Read more:

J&J ends global sales of talc-based baby powder

Justice Department bankruptcy watchdog sides with cancer plaintiffs in J&J talc appeal

Special Report: Inside J&J’s secret plan to cap litigation payments to cancer victims

Judge Gives Green Light to J&J’s Strategy to Resolve Talc Lawsuits in Bankruptcy Court

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