Missouri judge orders Johnson & Johnson CEO to submit to talc deposition

Johnson & Johnson Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alex Gorsky will now have to appear for a deposition in a talcum powder lawsuit, which is currently pending in St. Louis, Missouri.

In an Oct. 29 order, Judge Rex Burlison, who has presided over numerous talc trials, granted a motion filed by Plaintiffs’ lawyers to compel Gorsky to present himself for deposition. In August, Plaintiffs’ lawyers issued a deposition notice for Gorsky, but Johnson & Johnson’s lawyers argued the notice was improper and that Gorsky would not appear without an order from the judge.

In their motion to compel, filed with the court on Sept. 11, Plaintiffs argued that Gorsky has “unique and personal knowledge regarding the safety of talc.” In support of their argument, Plaintiffs cited several public statements by Gorsky defending the safety of talc and arguing that it does not contain asbestos. Additionally, Plaintiffs’ motion referenced Gorsky’s direct receipt of adverse event reports and emails relating to talc safety.

Plaintiffs argued that only Gorsky could testify regarding the basis of his public statements and his actions in response to the emails and adverse event reports. Johnson & Johnson opposed Plaintiff’s motion to compel, stating:

  • That Gorsky has no unique knowledge related to talc and that the deposition was an improper “attempt to harass and embarrass [Gorsky].”
  • That Gorsky has never worked for Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc., the subsidiary responsible for talcum powder products, and that any questions Plaintiffs might ask him would be better directed to lower-level employees.
  • That Gorsky’s public statements referenced by Plaintiffs were only general statements made by the CEO in response to litigation and were not based on any personal knowledge of talc.
  • That Gorsky’s receipt of adverse event reports and emails related to talc safety were simply to apprise him of the status of the litigation.
  • That the court should consider the burden on Gorsky and on the company if he had to prepare and appear for a deposition.

After reviewing the arguments of all parties, Judge Burlison has issued an order granting Plaintiffs’ motion to compel the deposition. The judge found that Plaintiffs met their burden in demonstrating the deposition was necessary. The order specifically referenced an affidavit provided by Gorsky, which indicated that “he had discussions and communications regarding the talcum powder products at issue to ensure that he was aware of the decision-making process regarding the products and to convey Johnson & Johnson’s corporate viewpoint.”

Judge Burlison found that Plaintiffs’ request to depose Gorsky on these products was proper and that the information needed could not be obtained from another source. However, the court’s order also acknowledged the potential burden on Gorsky and Johnson & Johnson and ordered that the deposition be limited, both in time and content, to minimize that burden.

Beasley Allen lawyers continue to investigate new cases involving women who have suffered from ovarian cancer after using Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower. For more information, contact Ted Meadows, Leigh O’Dell, or Melissa Prickett, lawyers in our Mass Torts Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected].

Sources:
Bloomberg
Motions and Order, Young et al., v. Johnson & Johnson, et al., 1522-CC-09728-02, Division No. 10, Missouri Circuit Court, Twenty Second Judicial Circuit (St. Louis).

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This story appears in the December 2018 edition of The Jere Beasley Report. For more like it or to subscribe to the Report, visit our Publications page.

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