U.S. Insurers Baffled on Revelation of $4.7 billion J&J Talc Judgement

August 3, 2018  Source: Reuters 244


Wall Street is unclear whether the U.S. insurance industry will have to pay any costs from the $4.69 billion verdict against Johnson & Johnson granted to customers and their families who alleged that asbestos-adulterated talc leads to ovarian cancer.

Analysts say the talc litigation poses a financial risk for insurers, including Travelers Companies Inc., Chubb Ltd and The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc.

 “I wanted to get a sense as to whether this is going to turn into a bigger deal and catch us by surprise,” said Buckingham Research Group analyst Amit Kumar, who enquired about the subject during W.R. Berkley Corp’s call last week. “The J&J news prompted us to revisit this topic.”

J&J has continually denied the claim.

Insurance executives are unable to provide confirmative responses, citing ambiguity about how litigation will turn out or what part reinsurance might play. Policies concerning asbestos liability were underwritten in the 1970s.

In J&J’s case, we would not be surprised if the plaintiffs’ bar found a way to trigger coverage under its old liability policies, which we think could lead to additional exposure for insurers,” Barclays analyst Jay Gelb wrote in a research note on Tuesday.

Travelers, Chubb and The Hartford may have exposure, Gelb said.

The July 12 $4.69 billion ruling by a Missouri Court is the biggest judgment against J&J till date among decades-old accusations that its talc-based merchandise cause cancer. [L1N1U81WS]

 “We are confident that there are multiple grounds for reversal of this jury verdict and that, ultimately, the case will be reversed,” J&J Chief Executive Alex Gorsky said earlier this month.

There was no response from J&J spokesman Ernie Knewitz on requests for a statement on its insurance coverage.

It is uncertain what position reinsurance will assume for insurers or J&J.

By Ddu

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