‘Objections delayed fair examinations of witnesses’

Jones Day attorney held to account following Abbott Laboratories trial

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

Jones Day attorney Abbott Laboratories trial

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An Iowa district judge has sanctioned a Jones Day attorney for objecting to “form” without any explanation, witness coaching and excessive interruptions in a case over a bacterial contamination in Abbott Laboratories' powdered infant formula.

June Ghezzi made ‘an astounding number’ of deposition objections while helping Abbott fight allegations that its Similac Neosure powdered infant formula​ was contaminated with Enterobacter sakazakii and caused newborn Jeanie Kunkel to develop meningitis and suffer brain damage.

Jones Day to appeal

US District Judge, Mark Bennett, told Ghezzi to write and produce a training video explaining proper discovery procedure and make it available to all Jones Day lawyers who appear in US state or federal courts or who work in practices where other lawyers do.

Bennett said his order must be complied within 90 days, but he would suspend it if it is appealed.

Dan Reidy, Jones Day attorney confirmed the firm will appeal the decision.

In a statement, he said Ghezzi's conduct "was appropriate and violated no rule of law or of the court​," and the plaintiffs' lawyer did not complain at the time.

According to Law360, Bennett acknowledged Ghezzi’s skillful defense of Abbott but issued an order to show cause as to why he shouldn't impose sanctions against her for making a slew of objections that delayed the fair examinations of witnesses.

Ghezzi reportedly launched hundreds of allegedly unnecessary objections and frequently interrupted questioning while defending her clients during pretrial depositions. Most of the objections were meritless and often influenced the witnesses' responses, Bennett wrote in a 34-page opinion.

Baseless form objections

He said many “baseless form objections​,” stated no recognized ground and prompted witnesses to unnecessarily bicker with the examiner.

For example, in two depositions Bennett asked Ghezzi to review, she objected to the form of the examiner's question at least 115 times, according to court papers. Moreover, her named appeared at least 381 times in the transcript of one deposition and 92 times in another, the judge noted.

He added Ghezzi’s form objections were not only obstructionist but went “far beyond what judges should tolerate of any lawyer, let alone one as experienced and skilled as counsel​.”

Bennett said the video must address the impropriety of unspecified “form” objections, witness coaching, and excessive interruptions and the lawyer must state in the film that it is being produced and distributed pursuant to a federal court’s sanction order regarding a partner in the firm, but the lawyer need not state the name of the partner, the case the sanctions arose under, or the court issuing the order.

The Abbott Laboratories case was brought to trial by the Security National Bank of Sioux City, acting as the conservator for Kunkel, in February 2011.

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