CANCER

Johnson & Johnson settling cases tied to device that can spread uterine cancer

A first aid kit made by Johnson & Johnson for sale on a store shelf in Westminster, Colorado April 14, 2009. Johnson & Johnson said its quarterly earnings fell, hurt by generic competition for its Risperdal schizophrenia drug and the strong dollar, but lower costs enabled the company to beat Wall Street expectations.    REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES BUSINESS) - RTXDZJN

A first aid kit made by Johnson & Johnson for sale on a store shelf in Westminster, Colorado April 14, 2009. Johnson & Johnson said its quarterly earnings fell, hurt by generic competition for its Risperdal schizophrenia drug and the strong dollar, but lower costs enabled the company to beat Wall Street expectations. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES BUSINESS) - RTXDZJN

Johnson & Johnson is settling a series of legal claims and lawsuits alleging that its now-discontinued hysterectomy device harmed women by spreading an undetected hidden cancer, according to court documents and plaintiff lawyers with knowledge of the settlements.

An estimated 100 cases have either been filed—or readied for lawsuits—against J&J’s Ethicon unit related to a device known as the laparoscopic power morcellator, said Paul Pennock, a plaintiff lawyer and co-lead counsel on the steering committee for consolidated litigation under way in a Kansas City, Kan., federal court.

Of the 100 or so claims, J&J has settled nearly 70 over the past few months, he said, and more talks are ongoing.

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J&J’s total outlay on the claims likely runs into the many millions, though individual settlement sums vary case by case. Some of its settlements so far have ranged from $100,000 to roughly $1 million, according to a person with knowledge of some recently resolved cases.

The New Brunswick, N.J., health-care giant also is in talks to resolve other morcellator claims it faces, according to lawyers with knowledge of those talks.

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