From around September of last year right up until the ball dropped New Year’s Eve, you couldn’t go a day without hearing someone lament just how terrible the year wound up being. From celebrity deaths and other shocking world events to an increasingly hostile political environment, 2016 was the year that everyone simply wanted to forget.
The corporate world had its share of upheaval as well, but one company would be particularly happy if 2016 could be removed from the record books. It’s one of the most well-known corporations on the planet and odds are very good that you have more than one of their families of products in your home right now.
The company is Johnson & Johnson, and a recent story on Bloomberg sheds some light on just how bad 2016 was for a healthcare products corporation that couldn’t keep its name out of the news.
Billions of dollars were paid as J&J found itself on the losing end of six of the seven largest jury verdicts in the United States for 2016 for products ranging from hip implants to talc powder. The company and its products were allegedly responsible for everything from defective medical hardware leading to intense pain and premature revision surgeries to various types of cancers. Risperdal cases led to company executives trying to explain how an anti-psychotic drug was causing boys and young men to develop female breast tissue.
J&J is currently working to defend itself from over 100,000 claims filed regarding five of its main products: talc, the Pinnacle hip replacement, Xarelto, Risperdal, and a pelvic mesh product. Interestingly, this may very well be the tip of the iceberg. Once a company loses its first few product liability cases, or fails in its attempts to have the cases thrown out by a judge, it has the potential to be an opening of the floodgates. The legal system has, at that point, mandated that there is a viable reason for these cases to continue, and those with alleged injuries who would otherwise have remained quiet begin to feel that their cases may actually have merit.
Johnson & Johnson’s tactics regarding these lawsuits have largely remained the same: the company isn’t settling, even in the face of jury verdicts meant to encourage the company to do so. The strategy has worked in some cases. Some talc cases have resulted in decisions in the company’s favor and there have also been some dismissals. However, the fact remains that the 100,000 cases on file as of yet may only be the beginning.
2016 was a bad year for Johnson & Johnson. The larger issues, however, may be how many additional bad years the company will have as a result, and if J&J will change practices that are failing it, as well as the customers that depend on it for their health and safety.