(Reuters) — A U.S. judge on Thursday halted most of the tens of thousands of lawsuits alleging Johnson & Johnson baby powder and other talc products caused cancer, halting all lawsuits as part of a company subsidiary’s second attempt to resolve cases in bankruptcy proceedings.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Kaplan put most of the litigation on hold during a hearing in Trenton, New Jersey. The decision mostly granted a request by J&J to freeze cases while it tries to reach a permanent settlement with current plaintiffs that would also set aside money to pay anyone who might sue the company later.
J&J says it has broad support for a proposed $8.9 billion settlement, a claim disputed by lawyers representing thousands of talc claimants who oppose it.
J&J subsidiary LTL Management filed for bankruptcy a second time earlier this month to help complete the latest deal, despite a federal appeals court ruling in January that invalidated its first Chapter 11 filing on the grounds that the J&J unit was not in financial distress.
“I have more questions than answers,” Judge Kaplan said during Thursday’s court hearing, referring to arguments presented to him about the other bankruptcy case earlier this week.
The judge halted roughly 38,000 talk lawsuits that had been consolidated in a federal district court in New Jersey. As for other cases, he allowed them to continue as long as no trials were initiated.
He said he would review the sentence at the end of May.