By Maria Chutchyan
Feb 3 (Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson on Thursday accused lawyers of people who sued the pharmaceutical giant over its talc products of sharing confidential documents with Reuters in what it called a “calculated effort” to judge the bankruptcy case of its subsidiary in the press.
In a letter filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New Jersey, attorneys for J&J and LTL Management LLC, a bankrupt subsidiary the company created to handle its talc liabilities, claimed that attorneys on two committees representing the complainants had shared at least two confidential documents with the news organization.
Plaintiffs’ committee lawyers engaged in a ‘calculated effort’ to ‘try this case in the press rather than in court,’ LTL attorney Gregory Gordon told a hearing shortly after the filing. of the letter.
“Apparently the lawyers for the committees pass documents to the press. And we are particularly aware that this is done with Reuters,” Gordon said.
J&J’s attorneys said the documents they say were leaked were subject to a protective order issued by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Kaplan.
The letter asks Reuters to return the documents it says were leaked and to refrain from disclosing any confidential information they contain. J&J’s lawyers said if Reuters refused, they would consider asking the court to compel the news agency to do so.
A Reuters spokesman called the allegations unsubstantiated.
“We reject the factually unfounded and legally baseless allegations made by J&J’s attorneys and will continue to report without fear or favor on matters of public interest,” the spokesperson said in a statement Thursday.
During the hearing, a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs’ committees objected to what he called “inappropriate accusations”. The solicitor, David Molton, said “Mr Gordon should know better.” A spokesperson for one of the committees did not immediately comment.
The LTL unit filed for bankruptcy https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/jj-unit-manage-talc-claims-files-bankruptcy-protection-2021-10-14 in October to resolve approximately 38,000 claims alleging that J&J’s talc products contain asbestos and cause mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.
J&J maintains that its consumer talc products are safe and have been confirmed to contain no asbestos. The company said it placed LTL into bankruptcy to settle those claims rather than pursuing them individually. He said resolving these claims through Chapter 11 is a legitimate use of the restructuring process.
The talc committees argue that J&J should not be allowed to use bankruptcy to settle the talc dispute and that in doing so it robs the plaintiffs of their day in court.
Kaplan is due to hear arguments on the committees’ motion to dismiss LTL’s bankruptcy on Feb. 14.
Also at Thursday’s hearing, Kaplan granted a request by groups of law professors to file so-called “friends of the court” briefs in support of the motion to dismiss. One of the faculty groups said that using a bankrupt unit to dump talc-related liabilities when it itself is financially sound is a “direct attack on the fundamental integrity of the chapter 11”.
A 2018 Reuters investigation found that J&J had known for decades that asbestos, a known carcinogen, was hiding in its baby powder and other talc-based cosmetics. The company stopped selling baby powder in the United States and Canada in May 2020, in part due to what it called “misinformation” and “unsubstantiated claims” about the product. of talc. (Reporting by Maria Chutchian, editing by Amy Stevens and Rosalba O’Brien)