The New Jersey jury that punished Johnson & Johnson with a $186 million mesothelioma punitive damages decision was likely swayed by testimony from the company’s CEO, Alex Gorsky. In that testimony, the company head appeared out of the loop with reference to the safety of the company’s talc-based products, despite his remarkable level of compensation.
Mesothelioma Jury Initially Awards Victims $750 Million
The original lawsuit was filed by several mesothelioma victims who accused the company of hiding the fact of asbestos contamination in their baby powder and other talc-based product. The damages portion of the lawsuit resulted in a $37 million award to victims, and then the plaintiffs moved on to the punitive damages phase meant to specifically address wrongdoing on the company’s part. In response to the CEO’s testimony, the New Jersey jury awarded the victims $750 million, which was reduced by a state cap.
Companies accused of negligence involving asbestos exposure generally try to avoid having their CEO testify, and the outcome in the mesothelioma lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson is an example of why. These leaders frequently have no day-to-day interaction with the intricacies or science of asbestos exposure: by the time jurors hear them testify, they frequently know more than the CEOs do, and jurors expect more interest from the corporate leaders.
Johnson & Johnson CEO Admits To Not Having Read Documents
During the punitive phase of the mesothelioma lawsuit, the Johnson & Johnson CEO was specifically questioned about his knowledge of the asbestos in his company’s talc. He responded by admitting that he hadn’t read the pertinent documents or studies, instead believing the assurances of his company’s experts. Jury experts believe that this lack of pursuit of information reflected a lack of interest or caring about victims, and likely offended the jury.
Though the CEO said that there was no connection, the jury was probably further ired by his admission to having made $22 million by exercising stock options on the same day that the company learned about an upcoming Reuters expose about asbestos in its products. This would have furthered the idea that asbestos companies put their profits over the health of the public.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma and you believe your exposure came from asbestos in talc-based products, we have the information you need. Contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608 to learn more.