California woman awarded $13 million verdict in mesothelioma lawsuit against Colgate-Palmolive over asbestos-contaminated talcum powder

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by Jim Orr

A California woman has been awarded a $13 million verdict in a mesothelioma lawsuit filed against Colgate-Palmolive. Judith Winkel alleged in her lawsuit that she was diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer as a result of using the company’s Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder, which for many years contained asbestos. The verdict is the first ever against Colgate-Palmolive for asbestos exposure from commercial talcum powder.

Talcum powder—which is made from talc, one of the world’s softest minerals—was once manufactured with talc that was mined from deposits laced with asbestos fibers. Asbestos, another naturally-occurring mineral, can cause mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that affects the lining of the heart, lungs, or abdomen. Although the federal government required in 1973 that all talcum powders sold in the United States be asbestos-free, many products—including Colgate-Palmolive’s Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder—contained asbestos before that time.

According to her lawsuit, Winkel used Colgate-Palmolive’s Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder from 1961 until 1976. After she was diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer in 2014, Winkel filed a lawsuit against Colgate-Palmolive, alleging that exposure to asbestos fibers found in the company’s talcum powder was responsible for causing her illness. According to court testimony, Colgate-Palmolive was receiving talc supplies from mines contaminated with asbestos until 1985.

Jurors agreed with Winkel’s arguments, taking only two hours of deliberation to rule in her favor. Jurors found that Colgate was 95% responsible for Winkel’s mesothelioma diagnosis. The $13 million in damages awarded by the jury also included $1.4 million in damages for Winkel’s husband.

Following the verdict, Winkel and her attorneys reached a confidential settlement with Colgate-Palmolive that will prevent the company from being able to appeal the jury’s verdict. The settlement agreement was reached just as jurors were set to hear evidence to determine punitive damages in the case.

Mesothelioma Cases Linked to Asbestos Exposure from Talcum Powder

Although the verdict in Winkel’s mesothelioma lawsuit against Colgate-Palmolive was the first case linking the company’s talcum powder to asbestos-related illnesses, it was not the first verdict linking mesothelioma and talc. Recently, a New Jersey appeals court upheld a $1.6 million verdict in the case of a man who also alleged that he was diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer from exposure to commercial talc.

Although tests conducted by the Food and Drug Administration have found that talcum powder products sold today in the U.S. are free from asbestos, this was not always the case. Prior to the new restrictions placed on manufacturers of asbestos products in 1973, many commercially available talc products sold in this country were contaminated with asbestos, putting individuals who used them at risk of developing mesothelioma cancer.

The reason for the widespread asbestos contamination of talc products is due to the close proximity in which these products are often found in the earth. Tremolite, a commonly used type of asbestos, is often found near large deposits of other minerals, particularly vermiculite and talc. The close proximity of these substances increased the chance that talc that was mined near tremolite could be contaminated with asbestos.

Talcum Powder Linked to Ovarian Cancer Risk

Recent reports have also linked the use of talcum powder to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. More than a dozen studies published since the 1980s found a link between talcum powder used for feminine hygiene and ovarian cancer risks. Women who used talcum powder were about 35% more likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. But despite these findings, the cancer risk of talc was largely kept hidden from the public.

More than 700 victims of ovarian cancer have filed lawsuits against makers of talcum products, including Johnson & Johnson. Some lawsuits have also been filed against Imerys Talc America Inc., part of the global mining concern that supplies talc to Johnson & Johnson for its Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products. The Personal Care Products Council, a Washington trade group for cosmetics makers, is also named as a defendant in some of the ovarian cancer lawsuits.

Mesothelioma Lawsuits Filed Against Talcum Manufacturers

In addition to the mesothelioma lawsuits filed over commercially available talc products, several lawsuits have also been filed by workers who developed asbestos-related diseases as a result of exposure to industrial-grade talc. In 2013, a jury awarded a $2 million verdict to a New Jersey women who developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos-laced talc on her father’s factory clothing from talc supplier Whittaker, Clark & Daniels. Other talc suppliers have reached settlements in the asbestos lawsuits filed over illnesses linked to their products.

If you or a loved one were exposed to industrial talc or talcum products used in the home and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses—including lung cancer and asbestosis—you may be eligible to file a lawsuit and seek compensation for your injuries. The first step in filing a lawsuit is to secure the services of an attorney with the experience and knowledge in product liability litigation to handle your case.

The law firm of Heygood, Orr & Pearson was founded on the principle that everyone—including individuals who are hurt on the job or in the home— should have access to experienced legal counsel. Our firm is AV-rated, the highest possible ranking from Martindale-Hubbell, the leading organization for law firm ratings. Our partners Michael Heygood, Jim Orr, and Eric Pearson have been voted by their peers as “Super Lawyers” in the state of Texas for several years in a row.*

Our law firm has years of experience handling workplace injury and product liability cases, and will work to ensure that your rights are protected. For a free legal consultation about your situation and to find out whether you might qualify to file a lawsuit, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free consultation form and answering a few simple questions about your case.

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* Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2015.