Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky took the stand Monday to defend his company in a trial to determine punitive damages in a case brought by four consumers who claim Johnson’s Baby Powder was contaminated with asbestos and caused them to develop mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure. In September, a separate New Jersey state jury ordered J&J to pay the plaintiffs $37.3 million in compensatory damages.
Gorsky, who has been quick to defend the company’s iconic baby powder in public and in the news, fought to avoid the subpoena plaintiffs in the case had hit him with weeks earlier. But Superior Court Judge Ana C. Viscomi rejected his arguments on the basis that his previous statements indicated he had personal knowledge of the alleged asbestos contamination of J&J talcum powder products that would prove beneficial to jurors when evaluating whether the company acted maliciously.
Gorsky’s first day on the stand – and his only time to testify in a jury trial over claims the company’s talc-containing products cause cancer – was focused on the sale of more than $40 billion worth of shares of company stock in November 2018. The sale came two days after Reuters published a damning investigative piece alleging the company was aware for decades that its talc could become contaminated with asbestos. The article further claimed that despite this knowledge, J&J failed to alert regulators or consumers. J&J dismissed the report as a “conspiracy theory.”
In October 2018, J&J issued a recall on its Johnson’s Baby Powder after testing by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed trace amounts of asbestos in the talc.
Johnson & Johnson faces more than 16,000 lawsuits that claim its talcum powder contains asbestos and caused users to develop mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.
Beasley Allen has been privileged to represent thousands of people who developed ovarian cancer and mesothelioma after using Johnson & Johnson talcum powder. Beasley Allen lawyer Ted Meadows heads up Beasley Allen’s Talc Litigation team, and Leigh O’Dell serves as co-lead counsel in the talc federal multidistrict litigation. Sharon Zinns in the firm’s Atlanta office handles cases involving mesothelioma, including talc-related asbestos disease.