Via America’s Lawyer: Johnson & Johnson reserves almost 4 billion dollars to settle tens of thousands of lawsuits over its cancer-causing baby powder. Attorney Stephen Luongo joins Mike Papantonio to update us on litigation filed by customers who were put at risk of mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos-laden products. Also, PG&E is criminally charged for causing the 2019 Kincaid Fire that destroyed hundreds of homes. Mike Papantonio & Farron Cousins discuss more.

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*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             Johnson and Johnson has reserved almost $4 billion to settle tens of thousands of lawsuits over cancer causing baby powder. Attorney Steve Luongo joins me to talk about this. Steve, your reaction is the same as mine, $4 billion is not enough. People are dropping like flies from ovarian cancer that this company knew about. They’ve been punished so many times in lawsuits. It’s almost like they’re running into the wall, bashing their head up against the wall, thinking something’s going to change. Nothing’s going to change. These facts don’t change. This is a company that screwed up major and they know it.

Stephen Luongo:               Exactly. And talking about the facts, they’ve known since the seventies, internal documents have shown that the presence of asbestos was in their talcum powder. They didn’t warn the FDA. They didn’t warn their consumers. And here we are, several decades later, women are developing mesothelioma, but primarily that ovarian cancer, which these lawsuits are coming down on and coming down on Johnson and Johnson hard with major verdicts.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. The significance of mesothelioma is that asbestos is the cause of, of, of mesothelioma. It’s a, what they call a scar based cancer. I’ve tried a lot of these cases. This is the same analysis here. This is a scar based injury that is effecting, effecting women, the ovaries of women. It’s, it’s causing scarring in there and resulting in cancer. Now, they’ve known they had asbestos in their talc for a long time, true?

Stephen Luongo:               Absolutely. Yes, sir. So they’ve known, like I said, the internal documents have shown since the seventies that the, the specialists was present in their documents or in their products rather. As well as studies that have been going on since the seventies, I think the first study came out in 1971 that showed a possible link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. That study was well known, well published. Documents throughout the eighties and nineties, as well as surveys and studies throughout that time period, showed that they were well aware of the risk of ovarian cancer, as well as the presence of asbestos.

Mike Papantonio:             You did a checklist for me saying the number of times, hit for $100 million, okay. Hit for $30 million. Hit for $4.6 billion. Hit for $25 million. Hit for $37 million. Hit for $417 million. Hit for $110 million. The company, here’s what’s happening, I promise you. The CEO does not want to give it up because it’s going to happen on his or her watch. This is how it happened. You don’t want to make it, you don’t want to pay out the big money on your watch. You want to wait till the next CEO comes along and pay it off. There’s a real ugly story to this side, you know what it is? It is that Wall Street is controlling lawyers who take money from Wall Street. They get loans from organizations like Fortress and you know, the big, the big hedge funds. They’re taking money from those people to where they can’t settle the cases. So it’s both sides, it’s Johnson and Johnson and some of these lawyers who are, who are moneyed up from Wall Street, which should never happen with a plaintiff’s lawyer. What’s your take on that?

Stephen Luongo:               Well, the dam is going to break. We know that last year Johnson and Johnson made some significant moves. We talked about the a hundred million that they set aside, the deal with women and a thousand lawsuits approximately, where asbestos was found there. They’ve also set aside through their financial documents, the four billion that you talked about earlier, and they removed the baby powder with talc entirely from the market back in May of 2022.

Mike Papantonio:             But what happens when Wall Street tells a claimant’s lawyer, okay, you’ve got a thousand cases, you have to hold out for more money, even though it’s a good settlement. That means Wall Street, here’s what I’d recommend. People need to ask their lawyer. Are you taking money from Wall Street? And you as a plant, a claimant’s lawyer, are you taking money from Wall Street? Because if you are it’s Wall Street, making the decisions about whether you should settle the cases or not. These cases should be settled. The trials, one trial after another, they’ve been hammered. The CEO needs to give it up right now and say, look, I’m the guy that maybe has to pay out all the money, but I’ll live with it. Got about 30 seconds. What’s your take?

Stephen Luongo:               Well right now with the litigation and there is the MDL up in New Jersey that has approximately 25,000 cases.

Mike Papantonio:             We are full disclosure, we’re helping to run that MDL.

Stephen Luongo:               We are, we are, and we’re not taking Wall Street money and we’re fighting for them. We’re trying to get the settlements. Obviously we’re looking at that 4.6 million or billion dollar settlement and verdict that came in St. Louis. The final appeal of that hasn’t been determined yet, but that’s definitely a governing factor. Right now, the judge in the MDL, MDL has issued us as well as the opposing side, to go and select the bellwether cases. I think that’s really going to start getting some traction with this case.

Mike Papantonio:             That means, choose the case that you want to go to trial with. When that happens, things start moving.

Stephen Luongo:               Absolutely.

Mike Papantonio:             This company can’t take many more hits. The CEO in charge right now needs to make a very important decision. Do I want this company to stay alive or do I want to be the CEO who puts an end to Johnson and Johnson? Because I’m worried about my exit package. That’s what’s, that’s what’s at stake here. Thank you for joining me, Steve.

Stephen Luongo:               Thank you, sir.

Mike Papantonio:             And finally tonight, some good news. California power company PG&E has been charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors for their role in 2018 fires. And I have Farron Cousins, the best progressive voice in the business, to talk to me about this one. As I look at this story, Farron, I say, okay, got a corporation. You know, what are we going to do? Let them go with a fine. They’ve killed people. It’s, it’s manslaughter. It’s no different from somebody on the street saying, hey, I’m going to fifth this, I’m going to drink this fifth of Jim Beam. And I’m going to drive 90 miles an hour through a school zone. That’s manslaughter. These people killed people and we fine them. Nobody goes to prison. What’s your take?

Farron Cousins:                  You know, it’s really great what California has decided to do here, because this is the logical step that we have to with corporations.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah, the first step. First step.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah. And they did it in 2017. They did it in 2018. And now they’re doing it again in 2020. But at some point, you know, I think Thom Hartmann used to talk about this all the time, you have to bring back the corporate death penalty. When you have a company that is out there killing people and admitting to it and pleading guilty. Yeah. Okay. We killed people this year. We killed people that year. We killed people now. Then this corporation needs to face some kind of very strict, your done type, type situation. They can’t continue to operate because they can’t be trusted.

Mike Papantonio:             It is manslaughter. You’ve killed people and somebody has to do more than pay a damn fine.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             Thank you for joining me, Farron.

Farron Cousins:                  Thank you.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.