New Brunswick, NJ - Johnson & Johnson’s CEO Alex Gorsky takes the stand Monday in a New Jersey state courtroom for the first time in a trial over the alleged presence of asbestos in the company’s cosmetic talc products, and the proceedings will be webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.
Gorsky’s testimony comes as part of an ongoing trial to determine punitive damages for four plaintiffs having their claims heard simultaneously. A different jury in September awarded the plaintiffs a combined $37.3 million in compensatory damages, after the presiding judge took the unusual step of striking J&J’s entire closing argument.
Both the compensatory phase and all proceedings to date in the punitive phase have been webcast by CVN.
Live testimony from J&J’s CEO marks a new development in cosmetic talc trials, and observers tracking the case will be keen to gauge its potential impact on jurors. J&J has its headquarters just miles from the Middlesex County courthouse where the trial is taking place, meaning plaintiffs had the option to compel his in-person testimony.
J&J unsuccessfully tried to squash the subpoena for Gorsky. The trial judge, Ana Viscomi, ruled that public statements made by Gorsky related to talc litigation indicated he had sufficient personal knowledge to compel his trial testimony.
J&J appealed, arguing that Gorsky “did not participate in any decisions regarding the research, development, safety or marketing of the talcum products at issue.”
Appellate Division Judge Lisa Firko affirmed the trial court ruling on January 15, citing an appearance Gorsky made on the popular CNBC television show “Mad Money.” During his appearance on the show Gorsky told host Jim Cramer that, “Since tests for asbestos in talc were first developed, J&J’s Baby Powder has never contained asbestos.”
“Here, in the punitive damages phase of the jury trial, the trial judge noted that plaintiffs represented that Gorksy made an appearance on Mad Money and provided testimony and statements in other cases regarding his knowledge of the product at issue,” Firko’s order states. “The conduct of J&J is at issue here and whether that suspect conduct is ongoing, as explained by the trial court.”
Besides the myriad attorneys monitoring J&J’s cosmetic talc trials, Gorky’s testimony will likely be closely-watched by many people on Capitol Hill.
In December Gorsky declined an invitation to testify before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy in a hearing on talc products, claiming he lacked expertise in the subject matter of the hearing.
The hearing took place in response to bombshell news that the FDA detected asbestos in a batch of J&J’s talcum powder. While J&J disputes the findings they nonetheless led to a voluntary recall by the company.
Gorsky’s testimony will be available live in real-time to CVN subscribers, and also on-demand after the fact.
The ongoing case is captioned Barden, et al. v. Johnson & Johnson, case number MID-L-1809-17.
E-mail David Siegel at email@example.com