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Johnson & Johnson falls on report that lawsuits could expose potentially damaging documents

  • Johnson & Johnson's stock fell on a report that court proceedings could expose potentially damaging documents.
  • J&J is facing numerous lawsuits claiming its talc products such as Johnson's Baby Powder caused cancer.
  • Johnson & Johnson has said baby powder does not contain asbestos and does not cause ovarian cancer or mesothelioma.
Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder line a drugstore shelf in New York.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters
Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder line a drugstore shelf in New York.

Shares of Johnson & Johnson fell Monday on a report that court proceedings could expose potentially damaging documents.

J&J is facing numerous lawsuits claiming its talc products such as Johnson's Baby Powder caused cancer. The company has insisted its baby powder does not contain asbestos and causes neither mesothelioma nor ovarian cancer.

In a statement, a J&J spokesman pointed to a California judge ruling in favor of J&J in November in a lawsuit by a woman who said she developed mesothelioma after using the company's talc-based products. He said the company would continue to defend its position in future cases.

"We are confident that our talc products are, and always have been, free of asbestos, based on decades of monitoring, testing and regulation dating back to the 1970s," he said. "Historical testing of samples by the FDA, numerous independent laboratories, and numerous independent scientists have all confirmed the absence of asbestos in our talc products."

J&J's stock fell 5 percent on Monday. Jefferies analyst Jared Holz said the report reads poorly, but he doubts it will have a real impact.

In a note to investors, Wells Fargo analyst Larry Biegelsen said the concerns on the talc lawsuits "appear overblown."

Even if J&J settled all 5,500 cases for $280,000 per case (the highest amount among liability cases in the drug and device sectors the firm has tracked), the total liability to J&J would be $1.5 billion, he wrote. At the end of the fourth quarter, J&J had $18.4 billion of cash and marketable securities.