A California man received a talc powder mesothelioma verdict of $18.06 million on Oct. 27, 2016. A jury in Los Angeles gave the award to the former aide of ex-Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. After being exposed for decades to asbestos in talcum powder, the man was diagnosed with aggressive cancer last year.
Following a six-week trial, a jury of 12 people delivered the verdict against talc supplier Whittaker Clark & Daniels on Oct. 19, 2016. The jury found the company 30 percent at fault for the man’s mesothelioma cancer.
Superior Court Judge Charles Palmer dismissed the jury after the plaintiff and the talc maker reached a confidential settlement after the verdict, but before the case’s punitive damages phase, which would also have been in the hands of the jury.
Talc Powder contained Asbestos
The plaintiff, Philip Depoian, 68, of West Hills, California, said he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in May 2015. He blamed his meso diagnosis on his exposure to asbestos over several decades. His exposure began in 1948, he testified, when he visited his father’s barber shop for haircuts in Pasadena, Calif.
Latency for mesothelioma can be 10 to 50 years, though the average latency period for malignant mesothelioma is 35 to 40 years from exposure to diagnosis.
Mr. Depoian worked as Mayor Bradley’s assistant for 20 years. He is also a retired political operative, a veteran of several campaigns. With his cancer at the advanced stage, he has undergone 30 rounds of chemotherapy so far. He is also taking part in a clinical trial at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland.
Multiple Talc Exposures
Mr. Depoian filed his personal injury lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court in January, 2016. His legal petition claimed he was exposed to asbestos or products that contained asbestos from about 1948 to 1993. Mr. Depoian said he used several products containing talc, including Old Spice, Clubman, Kings Men, Mennen Shave Talc.
Talc in Cosmetics, Foods, Gums, Tablets
Talc is a hydrous magnesium silicate that is part of many cosmetics, foods, gums, and tablets. According to the FDA, asbestos can be found close to talc during the mineral’s mining process.
FDA: Talc Suppliers Declined to Provide Samples
In 2009-10, FDA conducted a survey of four talc suppliers and analysis of various products including eye shadow, blush, foundation, face powder, and body powder. The agency found no asbestos contamination in those products, but it also acknowledged product samples were limited, and that five of the nine suppliers it contacted declined to provide any samples. A Statement on the FDA’s web site reads:
“For these reasons, while FDA finds these results informative, they do not prove that most or all talc or talc-containing cosmetic products currently marketed in the United States are likely to be free of asbestos contamination. As always, when potential public health concerns are raised, we will continue to monitor for new information and take appropriate actions to protect the public health.”
Asbestos fibers can still be found in plenty of products on store shelves. No adequate testing methodology has been designed which can assure the public talcum powders do not contain asbestos.
Talc Powder Mesothelioma Verdict $18 Million
The jury deliberated for one day before arriving at its verdict. The jury found that Whittaker, Clark & Daniels marketed its talc as asbestos free without conducting proper testing.
Clubman Talc maker American International Industries was found 10 percent at fault, Colgate-Palmolive as successor to Men Shave Talc 10 percent at fault, Cyprus Amax Minerals 40 percent at fault, and Old Spice talc maker Shutlon 10 percent at fault.
According to a news release, the parties reached a confidential settlement Oct. 26, after the verdict but before the trial’s punitive damages phase.
Attorney David Matthews, whose law firm handles talc cancer cases nationwide, said the company must have anticipated a very large punitive damage award in order to settle the case.
Whittaker Clark & Daniels was the only named defendant by the trial’s end.
Mr. Depoian’s original complaint listed defendants as American International Industries; Brenntag North America; Brenntag Specialties; Calaveras Asbestos; Colgate-Palmolive; Cyprus Amax Minerals; Dana Classic Fragrances; Georgia-Pacific; Helen of Troy; Kaiser Gypsum; Metropolitan Life Insurance; Pfizer; Procter & Gamble; Shulton; Soco-West; Unilever United States; Union Carbide; Whittaker Clark & Daniels; Wyeth Holdings.