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 the litigation. Then, Attorney Robert Price joins Mike Papantonio to explain how doctors are being swindled by producers of surgical supplies, specifically defective hernia mesh.

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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:             Boston Scientific has reached a $188 million settlement nationwide over it’s phony marketing claims about certain surgical mesh products. These products were found to be totally unnecessary for most procedures and ended up causing extreme pain and bleeding among patients, per, absolute permanent injury. I’ve got Robert Price with me, who was one of the lawyers that made all that happen, has been involved with the mesh case for a long time. Robert, tell us about this litigation, but fill us in about what this is about. What was the case about, why the settlement and what’s ahead of us?

Robert Price:                        Thanks, thanks for having me on, Mike. So the Boston Scientific settlement was a settlement about the pelvic mesh products, which were products that were implanted in women to treat incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse and things like that.

Mike Papantonio:             And you worked that case as well.

Robert Price:                        We’ve been working that case and many other manufacturers for over 10 years. And essentially this, this was a settlement on behalf of AGs around the country that found that Boston Scientific had misled consumers, misled doctors about the true risks associated with the devices.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. So give us a recap on what you’re doing right now.

Robert Price:                        So what we’re doing now is we see a lot of these same manufacturers did the pelvic meshes also have done hernia meshes for many years, and it’s the same by-product, it’s the same synthetic plastic polymer used to repair hernias, as well as the pelvic organ issues as we just talked about as well.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, you’re talking about the material. The, but the thing that struck me is when you discovered that they were using nonmedical grade material. Talk about, they’re using non, they’re using fishing line, basically, that’s sold in a fishing store. Talk about that.

Robert Price:                        Absolutely. What was uncovered in trials a few years ago, and what we’re working up, the backstory, even, even deeper. What some companies do, not necessarily all of them, but several companies do this is they use a non-medical grade by-product so literally just bottom shelf, not approved for human usage type stuff. It breaks down, it degrades.

Mike Papantonio:             It actually says not app, approved for human use, right?

Robert Price:                        Right. The stuff that you get from the factory actually comes with a warning that says, do not use this in the human body.

Mike Papantonio:             But they used it anyway.

Robert Price:                        They used it anyway, and what we’re also discovering, Mike, is that they are coming up with different essentially shell companies to run this stuff through. So people don’t know any better. That’s another thing we’re discovering.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, what do you mean by that? They’re, they’re, they’re setting up shell companies. They’re moving from the manufacturer of the, of the material, moving through a shell company, and then moving to the people who create the mesh product.

Robert Price:                        Right. Right.

Mike Papantonio:             To try to wash the information.

Robert Price:                        Absolutely. Absolutely.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. So as this goes far, as this goes forward, we’re talking about a hernia mesh. What kind of injury does it cause? What, what should be people, what should people be aware of?

Robert Price:                        So, so a lot of these products have these gimmicky coatings and things like that on them. And what we’re seeing is the coating breaks down too soon. It doesn’t work correctly. And these meshes actually, they, they adhere to people’s organs. They’ll blow out too soon. They’ll fail, catastrophic injuries like bowel punctures, internal bleeding, you said, organ perforations.

Mike Papantonio:             Does the material, does the material migrate through their system after it blows out?

Robert Price:                        It can, it absolutely can. It can blow out. It can move over and then you can have some of this chemical leaching that goes on with this really low grade stuff, high inflammatory responses that cause gut problems and things like that as well.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, Robert, one of the things that struck me is this is a procedure that’s not even necessary because a doctor that’s trained without mesh can create, he can fix a hernia without any of this garbage, right?

Robert Price:                        A lot of times.

Mike Papantonio:             So industry came in and said, look, you need this because you’re a doctor who’s not a specialist in fixing hernias, but now you can increase your practice if you’ll use our material. Isn’t that kind of the scenario here?

Robert Price:                        That’s right. We call it, we call them the gimmick meshes, which is they go to a doctor and say, yeah, you know, we know this hernia is real small and it would take you 20, 30, 40 minutes to do this, but it’ll take you five minutes with this easy patch. They think that, you know, the doctors, a lot of times they think it’s FDA approved. They think it’s been studied when it really hasn’t. And a lot of times it’s unnecessary. Doctors don’t need to do it, but it happens because they sold them a bill of goods and it’s turned out the truth is, is unveiled many years later.

Mike Papantonio:             Actually, when you look at the pelvic mesh cases, the juries jumped all over these, these companies and these are the same companies, aren’t they?

Robert Price:                        Right. Right.

Mike Papantonio:             Robert, thank you for joining me. Okay.

Robert Price:                        Thanks, Mike.

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.