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Lawmakers Want to Know What is Happening with 2019 Criminal Marketing Probe of Johnson & Johnson

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

When the US Department of Justice launched a criminal investigation into Johnson & Johnson’s alleged marketing of talc powder it was widely expected to lead to evidence that the huge corporation had knowingly marketed asbestos-tainted talcum powder products to the public.

The Justice Department launched the probe after internal documents arose that showed Johnson & Johnson found asbestos in its talc during at least three different laboratory tests from 1972 to 1975.

According to reports at the time, individuals with knowledge of the investigation indicated that a grand jury had been convened in Washington, D.C., to look at documents, which suggest Johnson & Johnson knew its talc supply contained asbestos or asbestos-like fibers for decades. However, no word of what that grand jury determined has been made public.

However, as of late August 2022, nothing has come of the federal probe.  The lack of information concerning the criminal probe led U.S. House representatives Rosa L. DeLauro and Steve Cohen to write letters to the Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland about the status of the investigation.

Johnson & Johnson currently faces more than 38,000 Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits filed by former users diagnosed with ovarian cancer, mesothelioma and other injuries. Many of those lawsuits claim the injuries were caused by asbestos in the products, and likely represent only a small fraction of actual cancer cases diagnosis since the talc-based powder was introduced.

According to press reports at the time of the probe’s launch, a grand jury had been convened but since that time there is still no word on the grand jury’s decision or the status of the federal criminal investigation. 

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