Johnson & Johnson (JNJ -0.84%) appears to be reaching deep into its coffers to settle a clutch of lawsuits. According to an article published on Monday by Bloomberg and citing "people with knowledge of the pacts," the healthcare giant has agreed to pay over $100 million to settle more than 1,000 lawsuits over its Johnson's Baby Powder.
The lawsuits, some of which stretch back several years, allege that repeated use of the talc-based powder caused cancer. Some claimants say that the product is tainted with asbestos, a substance notorious for causing the illness.
That $100 million would only be an initial outlay; according to regulatory filings, the total number of lawsuits pending is around 20,000. Several have already been resolved, with substantial awards. One, completed in 2018, saw a court order Johnson & Johnson to pay $4.7 billion, although this was significantly reduced to $2.1 billion on appeal. Other lawsuits have been dismissed.
"In certain circumstances, we do choose to settle lawsuits, which is done without an admission of liability and in no way changes our position regarding the safety of our products," Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Kim Montagnino wrote in an email statement quoted by Bloomberg.
The company has maintained from the start of the Johnson's Baby Powder controversy that its product is not carcinogenic. It isn't wavering on that stance. "Our talc is safe, does not contain asbestos and does not cause cancer," Montagnino added in her statement.
On Monday, Johnson & Johnson's shares closed up by 1.3%, not quite reaching the gain of the S&P 500 index on the day.