On Tuesday, a Los Angeles jury found that Colgate-Palmolive Company’s Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder caused plaintiff Judith Winkel’s mesothelioma. The jury awarded Mr. and Mrs. Winkel $13 million in damages, finding for plaintiffs on design defect, manufacturing defect, failure to warn, and negligence liability theories. Following the verdict, the parties reached a settlement before the trial’s punitive damages phase began.
Plaintiffs, represented by Dallas-based Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, PC, alleged that Colgate-Palmolive’s talcum powder products caused Mrs. Winkel to contract mesothelioma and that the company knew or should have known about the dangers of asbestos since the 1930s. This is the first verdict against Colgate-Palmolive involving asbestos exposure from talcum powder, according to one of Mrs. Winkel’s attorneys.
Talc is a naturally occurring mineral mined from the earth. Talc is not asbestos, but some talc is contaminated with naturally-occurring asbestos found in the areas where talc is mined.
Colgate-Palmolive Company, represented by J.D. Horton and Ian Shelton of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP argued that plaintiffs didn’t prove Mrs. Winkel personally used asbestos-contaminated talc product. Colgate-Palmolive contended that because some of their talc powder product contained asbestos, but some did not, a jury would have to speculate as to whether Mrs. Winkel used a contaminated product.
Indeed, plaintiffs’ own expert testified that some tests performed on samples of talc from the North Carolina mine used by Colgate-Palmolive revealed asbestos, but some did not.
Plaintiffs’ expert acknowledged that he personally tested ten samples of talc from the mine used by Colgate-Palmolive, and none contained asbestos. But this theory did not persuade the Honorable Randy Rhodes to grant a motion for nonsuit for lack of causation, and ultimately the jury found against Colgate-Palmolive after only two hours of deliberation.
To date, plaintiffs have won only a handful of jury verdicts in cases alleging talc exposure. Several weeks ago, a New Jersey appellate court upheld a 2013 plaintiff verdict of $1.6 million for a man alleging household exposure from his father who worked at a plant manufacturing cosmetic talc products.