A bankruptcy judge in the United States claimed he has received threats relating to the bankruptcy of a Johnson & Johnson company he is overseeing, with some comments implying that the case is an attempt to cover up damages purportedly caused by J&J's talc products.
The Chief United States Bankruptcy Judge in Trenton, New Jersey, stated during a hearing that he and his staff had received furious and threatening comments via phone calls, voicemails, emails, and social media posts since his February decision not to dismiss LTL Management LLC's bankruptcy case.
In an attempt to settle nearly 38,000 claims alleging that its Baby Powder and other talc products caused mesothelioma and ovarian cancer, J&J formed the subsidiary in October, allocated its talc liabilities to it, and declared bankruptcy a few days later. J&J, which has refuted the claims and stated that its products are safe, did not respond to a request for comment right away.
The judge could not specify how many threats the court had received or who had sent them but referenced a specific tweet from August in which he was referred to as a "murder cover upper" and a vague warning that "your day is coming" as an example.
The judge praised the attorneys on the case for their "zealous advocacy on emotionally sensitive matters," but advised them to "be mindful of the language they use," warning that overheated rhetoric might attract abuse and weaken the justice system.
He also cited a recent court filing from plaintiffs' counsel stating that the bankruptcy court's authority is "not for sale," claiming that it unjustly indicated he benefitted financially from LTL's bankruptcy.
The jury's comments came during a hearing to decide whether New Mexico and Mississippi should be allowed to pursue their cases against J&J for deceiving customers about the cancer risks connected with talc products.
The states claim they are not bound by an earlier court ruling that halted private plaintiffs' litigation during LTL's bankruptcy. According to the states' counsel, the judge lacks the jurisdiction to prevent states from enforcing their consumer protection statutes.
The states' cases, according to LTL's counsel, are "inextricably interwoven" with the private talc claims and must all be delayed to enable LTL time to achieve a restructuring agreement.
J&J set aside $2 billion in bankruptcy to settle talc claims and has maintained that the bankruptcy action is a fairer and speedier means to settle all cancer-related claims than continuing litigation in other courts.