Johnson & Johnson is having increasing legal troubles with talc, a trend that has potential implications for the property/casualty insurance industry.

Executive Summary

The fact that Johnson & Johnson is self-insured for much of its product liability exposure should not lull P/C insurers into complacency. Potential allegations of asbestos in cosmetics and the willingness of juries to award large damages in spite of unsettled science suggest a changing overall legal climate, experts say, arguing that insurers need to stay current on developments in both science and law.

That’s because a number of juries have ruled against the conglomerate in lawsuits alleging connections between its consumer talc products and cancer.

While some acknowledge the potential insurer costs and fallout, they caution that there are a number of mitigating factors that limit the suits’ long-term effects against the company and other products liability coverage legal situations in general. Still, the industry has taken notice.

“The half-dozen or so verdicts in suits over asbestos in talc show that juries are willing to award significant damages to plaintiffs in these cases,” said Charlie Kingdollar, vice president of emerging issues for Gen Re’s Global P/C division, referring to industrial talc cases (discussed below).

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