Via America’s Lawyer: The “family company” Johnson & Johnson has just been hit by a $750 million fine in New Jersey for their cancer-linked talcum-based baby powder. Mike Papantonio and Farron Cousins discuss.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             Johnson and Johnson was hit with another massive verdict last week over claims that their talcum powders are causing cancer. Okay. You’ve written how many articles about this? You’ve done how many stories? Friend of mine got this verdict, Chris Placitella, an extraordinarily talented lawyer. He and I used to try cases together in the early, early asbestos days. He, he hit them for $785 million. And so you got Johnson and Johnson that in a day lost fifth, $40 billion worth of value in their shares. Right? $40 million. Take the story from here.

Farron Cousins:                  Well, this trial, and I think so far, J and J has lost every one of the.

Mike Papantonio:             I think they’ve won two, they’ve won two, yeah.

Farron Cousins:                  They’ve won two. But they’ve been hit for hundreds of, well, I guess at this point, over a billion total.

Mike Papantonio:             Oh my God, how about 3 billion.

Farron Cousins:                  And so this one’s a little bit different because this time Placitella gets up there, he says, you know what, we’re going to bring out chief executive. We have Alex Gorsky.

Mike Papantonio:             Yes.

Farron Cousins:                  Come and take the stand.

Mike Papantonio:             Yes.

Farron Cousins:                  And when that jury delivered their verdict, Placitella said it was obvious they were delivering that verdict of you did this and you’re going to pay up directly to Alex Gorsky.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. Let me talk about this just a second because I’ve been in cases where the, where the trial judge treats the CEO like they’re some kind of special character that you can’t bring into a courtroom. This judge said, uh-uh, you, you’ve killed people, basically. I mean, they’ve killed people. They knew asbestos was in their product. They knew that asbestos causes cancer. They had done their own studies that said, we’re worried about this in the 1950s. They understand exactly what’s happening and nevertheless they say, well, we don’t want to bring our CEO, our CEO has some special privilege that he doesn’t have to come to court of law. Chris Placitella said, really? Let’s see how that floats in front of the judge. The judge did what the judge was supposed to do, bring him here, put him under cross examination and that’s exactly what happened.

Farron Cousins:                  Well, and that’s what needs to happen in more of these trials as well. We need not just, you know, the, the scientists or maybe, you know, with some salespeople, we need more executives on the stand. So that people can see one, either that, yeah, this cover up when all the way to the top or two, they could see what incompetent morons a lot of these CEOs are who have no idea what’s happening in their own company. That’s what we need to see.

Mike Papantonio:             But should a trial judge ever prevent somebody, a plaintiff, from saying that CEO needs to be in this courtroom? I need to ask that CEO that question about what they knew or didn’t know. I need to cross examine them just like I could anybody else. Where do we get this idea that they have some special dispensation because they’re in an Armani suit. They wear a Rolex watch, they drive a Bentley and they’ve got an MBA from Harvard. Why is it that we treat them any different than a, than anybody else that has to show up in that courtroom?

Farron Cousins:                  Well, because a lot of areas in this country, you have judicial elections, at least at the smaller level as these judges work their way up, that are funded by corporations. And that’s the part of the story most people don’t even understand is that local judges, for the most part across this country are elected. And anytime you have an elected position, you can find corporate money and they don’t have to spend much. They spend $5,000 in an election to buy a judge.

Mike Papantonio:             Yes, yes.

Farron Cousins:                  And if that judge works his way up, gets appointments across the line, they’ll remember that $5,000.

Mike Papantonio:             This, this judge is a real judge.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             This is a judge that we would expect to be trying a case like this who says, you know what? I’m not going to get into the weeds about what we can say or what we can’t say. I’m not going to keep you from making public statements about what happened. Farron, thanks for joining me. Okay.

Farron Cousins:                  Thank you.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.