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$13M Talcum Powder Verdict Against Colgate-Palmolive Co.

talcum powder

Winkel v. Cogate-Palmolive Co.

On April 28, a Los Angeles jury awarded a $13 million dollar verdict to plaintiff Judith Winkel and her husband, finding that Colgate-Palmolive Company’s Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder caused Ms. Winkel’s mesothelioma. The jury found for plaintiffs on:

  • Design defect
  • Manufacturing defect
  • Failure to warn
  • Negligence liability theories.

The jury also found that Colgate-Palmolive acted with malice. According to Ms. Winkel’s attorneys, this is the first verdict against Colgate-Palmolive involving asbestos exposure from talcum powder.

The Talcum Powder-Mesothelioma Connection

Talc is a mineral made up mainly of magnesium, silicon and oxygen, and it is mined from the earth. In its natural form, some talc may contain asbestos. In this case, plaintiffs alleged that Colgate-Palmolive’s talcum powder products caused Ms. Winkel to contract mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer that commonly develops in the lungs of people exposed to asbestos. The cancer usually affects the thin, protective membrane surrounding the lungs, heart or abdominal cavity. At trial, plaintiffs presented evidence that Colgate-Palmolive knew or should have known about the dangers of asbestos since the 1930s.

The Defense

Ms. Winkel was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January 2014 at age 73 after using the Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder product manufactured by Colgate-Palmolive Company. Colgate-Palmolive Company argued that plaintiffs did not prove that Ms. Winkel personally used asbestos-contaminated talc product because some of their talc powder product contained asbestos and some did not. They argued that the jury would have to speculate as to whether plaintiff used a contaminated product. The plaintiff’s expert testified that some tests performed on samples of talc from the North Carolina mine used by Colgate-Palmolive revealed asbestos. However, he also testified that some did not. The plaintiff’s expert also acknowledged that he personally tested ten samples of talc from the mine used by Colgate-Palmolive and none contained asbestos.

However, the jury unanimously found against Colgate-Palmolive after only two hours of deliberation. Following the verdict, the parties reached a settlement prior to the start of the trial’s punitive damages phase.

Not the Only Talcum Powder-Mesothelioma Verdict This Year

In March 2015, a $1.6 million New Jersey verdict involving asbestos in cosmetic talc was upheld on appeal. The case, Kaenzig v. Charles B. Chrystal Co., involved Whittaker Clark & Daniels, who was the primary supplier of raw talc for a plant that produced Old Spice and Desert Flower talcum powder that was contaminated with asbestos. The plaintiff, Steven Kaenzig, was diagnosed with malignant peritoneal mesothelioma in 2011, which he claimed was caused by his exposure to asbestos carried home on the work clothes of his father, who worked at the Old Spice plant from 1967 to 1975. During the trial, it was undisputed that during those years, Whittaker Clark supplied 99 percent of the raw talc used at the Old Spice plant, and Steven Kaenzig’s father regularly worked with “the injury-producing element (the contaminated friable dust) of that product.”

In the November 2013 trial, Mr. Kaenzig was awarded $1.4 million in pain and suffering damages and $200,000 for his wife’s loss of consortium claim. Defendants challenged the verdict on multiple grounds, including the admission or exclusion of certain evidence and the denial of its repeated motions.

Know your Rights

Talcum powder usage and its link to cancers has been in the media lately. In addition to the strong link between talcum powder and mesothelioma, there is also a connection between talc and ovarian cancer. As evidence of the connection becomes more public, the number of people filing lawsuits against talcum manufacturers grows. If you or someone you love has developed mesothelioma or ovarian cancer as a result of using talcum powder, you have rights. Ashcraft & Gerel is here to help. Contact us online or by calling 800-829-7037 today for a free and confidential consultation with one of our experienced pharmaceutical and medical device attorneys.