Last February, a New Jersey jury handed down a resounding verdict in a multi-plaintiff malignant mesothelioma lawsuit. It decided that Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder had been responsible for the victims’ illness, and that the company should pay a punishing $750 million in punitive damages. This week the consumer giant argued that the verdict should be reduced or that they should be allowed to retry the case. The company placed special emphasis on questioning of their CEO, Alex Gorsky, accusing the plaintiffs’ attorneys of introducing “inflammatory” evidence.
Mesothelioma Victims Awarded Compensatory and Punitive Damages
The original mesothelioma lawsuit was filed by four different victims of the asbestos-related disease. Each received a different compensatory damages amount based on the specifics of their individual case, with $7.25 million awarded to Douglas Barden; $9.45 million awarded to David Etheridge; $14.7 million awarded to D’Angella McNeill; and $5.9 million awarded to William Ronning.
After these judgments were rendered, the case turned to the question of whether or not the company deserved to pay an additional amount as punishment for their role in the plaintiffs’ mesothelioma diagnoses. In addition to revisiting much of the previously presented evidence about the company’s actions and decisions, the attorneys for the victims asked Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky about his salary, as well as about the actions he took to sell stock on the day that he learned that a damning article was about to be published by Reuters. The sale resulted in a single-day profit of $22 million for the executive.
Punitive Damages in Mesothelioma Suit Had Already Been Reduced
Superior Court Judge Ana Viscomi had already reduced the punitive damages amount from the jury’s $750 million figure to the state-mandated limit of five times the total of the compensatory award. This came to $186.5 million. Despit this reduction, Johnson & Johnson is arguing that the evidence about Gorsky’s stock sale should not have been admitted, and unfairly swayed the jury.
In response, the victims’ attorney argues that the testimony was critical to the jury’s ability to judge the character of Gorsky’s testimony, saying, “Mr. Gorsky claimed to have never seen nor have been made aware of the email from Reuters. The fact that Mr. Gorsky, for the first time ever, sold stock on that exact day out of the thousands of days over which the options were vested, strains credulity and gives the jury additional information to judge his veracity.”
Mesothelioma lawsuits are complex processes, but they can ultimately deliver justice to those exposed to asbestos. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related disease, the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net can help. Contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.