Imerys SA, which mines talc used in Johnson & Johnson’s iconic Baby Powder and other products, agreed to turn over its North American operations to resolve more than 14,000 lawsuits claiming the mineral caused cancer in some consumers.
Imerys Talc America, Imerys Talc Vermont and Imerys Talc Canada — units that sought bankruptcy protection last year — will be sold at auction with the proceeds going into a trust to compensate talc victims, the company said in a statement. In return, plaintiffs will drop their suits, allowing the businesses to emerge from Chapter 11. Paris-based Imerys SA, the company’s parent, didn’t file for bankruptcy protection.
The deal aims to end six years of litigation over Imerys’s role as the sole talc supplier for J&J. Consumers allege asbestos-laced talc causes one kind of cancer, while the mineral on its own causes another. J&J faces almost 20,000 suits making the same allegations, according to its latest regulatory filing.