An investigation by Reuters uncovered recent deposition testimony with Johnson & Johnson (J&J) CEO Alex Gorsky’s regarding the company’s Baby Powder®—a testimony that now, in light of recent events, can be seen as inaccurate.
In the deposition with Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Jim Kramer, Gorsky doubled down on his stance that Baby Powder is and always has been safe—a statement that came only 13 days before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publicly released test results detecting asbestos in the company’s Baby Powder.
Gorsky stated: “We unequivocally believe that our talc and our baby powder does not contain asbestos.” However, the FDA’s report revealed that trace amounts of chrysotile asbestos was found in a batch of J&J’s Baby Powder.
After the test results were made public, J&J immediately recalled 33,000 bottles of the product lot associated with the bottle that tested positive. The move, according to J&J, was made only “out of an abundance of caution.” The FDA also issued a public warning regarding cosmetic use of Baby Powder.
For well over a year, J&J has been embroiled in thousands of talc lawsuits, many of which allege that the company knew their talc contained trace amounts of asbestos, a toxic mineral that could ultimately cause a person to develop cancer, including mesothelioma.
Many consumers have tied the development of their cancer directly to J&J’s talc-based Baby Powder. Still, in spite of numerous jury verdicts in favor of injured consumers, which have ordered J&J to pay out millions of dollars, the company continues to stand by the safety and efficacy of their talc-based products.
Gorsky’s statement that J&J’s Baby Powder is free of asbestos has been echoed many times over the course of the last few years.
On a closer look at Gorsky’s language in the deposition, however, it is clear that the CEO is leaving what seems to be intentional wiggle room in his responses. As Reuters’ investigation points out, Gorsky refused to directly answer Kramer’s question, “Does your Baby Powder contain asbestos?”
Gorsky instead alludes to “thousands of tests and studies” that say otherwise. These non-committal responses often include phrases such as “I believe,” rather than an affirmative and unambiguous “yes” or “no.”
Kramer challenged Gorsky to be more precise: “Can you not answer the question as I’ve presented it, with a yes or a no?”
Gorsky responded, “I did not personally conduct every single test. I can only … gauge it based upon the data and totality that’s been presented to me.” According to a statement from J&J, Gorsky was unaware of the FDA results at the time of the deposition.
Evidently, J&J has remained firm in their position that the talc they mine, process and include in their products is free from asbestos contamination.
However, with the recent report by Reuters, the legal landscape for this particular case may soon change drastically in favor of plaintiffs. With FDA test results finding proof of asbestos in J&J’s Baby Powder, it is likely such a shift will come sooner rather than later.
For years, corporate and legal representatives of J&J have stood in front of juries and claimed their products do not contain asbestos. The FDA findings strengthen the position of plaintiffs who’ve claimed for years that asbestos-containing talc was making them sick.
Over 15,000 talc lawsuits now await their day in court.
See the original FDA press release here: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/baby-powder-manufacturer-voluntarily-recalls-products-asbestos
A compilation of articles is below: