Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder liability unit and cancer patients with claims in its Chapter 11 case can’t publicly reveal any information about their mediation talks, according to the terms of an order pending in New Jersey Bankruptcy Court.
U.S. District Judge Michael B. Kaplan reviewed the proposed protocol during a hearing Wednesday attended by LTL Management LLC and committees representing claimants alleging their ovarian cancer and mesothelioma were caused by asbestos in J&J’s signature product. LTL is shouldering mass tort liability totaling more than 38,000 talc claims.
As spelled out in an audio recording of the hearing posted to the case docket, the pending gag order would bar the mediation participants from disclosing — in court proceedings, docket filings, press releases or via other public channels — the parties involved; dates, times and locations of the talks; and any statements made and content discussed during the sessions, without express written authorization from the two co-mediators. The parties are also prohibited from disseminating any mediation-related documents, materials or communications.
Confidentiality has been among the issues plaguing the closely watched case, which LTL filed in October following a controversial divisional merger process that spun off LTL from J&J subsidiary Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. and saddled it with billions of dollars in talc liability.
LTL filed in October following a controversial divisional merger process that spun off LTL from J&J subsidiary Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. and saddled it with billions of dollars in talc liability.
Last month J&J accused talc plaintiffs’ attorneys of feeding confidential information to Reuters in an attempt to cast LTL’s bankruptcy, which the claimants tried unsuccessfully to dismiss, in a negative light. The information at issue included confidential discovery documents connected to the merger and bankruptcy.
J&J and LTL moved for a temporary restraining order to enjoin the story’s publication but withdrew the motion after Reuters published the story.