July 18 (Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) is exploring a plan to offload liabilities from widespread Baby Powder litigation into a newly created business that would then seek bankruptcy protection, according to seven people familiar with the matter.
During settlement discussions, one of the healthcare conglomerate’s attorneys has told plaintiffs’ lawyers that J&J could pursue the bankruptcy plan, which could result in lower payouts for cases that do not settle beforehand, some of the people said. Plaintiffs’ lawyers would initially be unable to stop J&J from taking such a step, though could pursue legal avenues to challenge it later.
J&J has not yet decided whether to pursue the bankruptcy plan and could ultimately abandon the idea, some of the people said. Reuters could not determine whether J&J has retained restructuring lawyers to help the company explore the bankruptcy plan.
J&J faces legal actions from tens of thousands of plaintiffs alleging its Baby Powder and other talc products contained asbestos and caused cancer. The plaintiffs include women suffering from ovarian cancer and others battling mesothelioma.