America's Most Admired Lawbreaker: Chapter 14, "The Good Soldier, The Good Mother, The Fade

Stepping Over Toys...And Onto the Stand

Even one of the Johnson & Johnson's own employees hurt the cause when he was called as a witness for the other side.

After the fighting over the Alabama doctor and his substitute, Kline questioned as a so-called hostile witness Jason Gilbreath, who had worked for Johnson & Johnson in the South for what he said was “15-plus years.” Gilbreath was the salesman who, according to records Kline’s side had subpoenaed, had called on Austin Pledger’s doctor 21 times over two years and dropped off samples equivalent to more than 16,000 children’s doses.

Gilbreath seemed to be the model of the solid citizen R.W. Johnson had had in mind as he built his iconic company and resolved to make it a place where the working man could earn an honorable, secure living. He had gone to work for J&J after getting a degree in avian and poultry science. He and his wife, whom he had married just after high school, still maintained a farm in Alabama, he told Kline and the jury.

Gilbreath began by describing his duties: “to talk about our products to physicians where they are appropriate to use.”

After testifying that he had met with three Johnson & Johnson lawyers to prepare for his testimony, Gilbreath ended up using a favorite word of defense attorneys—“appropriate”—13 more times as he soldiered through a barrage of questioning.

Over two days on the witness stand, Gilbreath claimed that he had no way of knowing for sure that Austin’s doctor—whose Birmingham office plaque said “Pediatric Neurologist”—treated only children (except perhaps for children who had grown into adults and might have remained in his care).

He didn’t “recall” noticing the children’s furniture or decorations in the doctor’s waiting room.

He didn’t know “for sure” that the reduced doses that his company, according to its own internal documents, had packaged for children—and which were the sample packages he gave to Austin’s doctor—were meant for children.

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To read Chapter 14 in its entirety and view the accompanying materials online, visit The Huffington Post: Highline website: http://huff.to/1Y1Ybk2.


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