Legislation and litigation
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Willie McNeill Jr., a Vietnam War veteran and retired school bus driver, was awarded $4.8 million by a jury in the California Supreme Court that decided that asbestos-contaminated talc led to his diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma.
Whitaker, Clark and Daniels, a longtime supplier of talc now based in South Plainfield, New Jersey, was ordered to pay McNeil $1.8 million in damages and $3 million in punitive damages.
The verdict stemmed from evidence presented that the Old Spice powder product, which McNeal has used nearly daily for more than 20 years, contains talc from a North Carolina mine known to contaminate toxic asbestos, a natural mineral that can cause mesothelioma cancer.
Old Spice is a registered trademark of Procter & Gamble, which discontinued the powder product many years ago.
McNeil, 78, was diagnosed in 2017, a year before he filed his case against more than a dozen defendants.
According to court records, Johnson & Johnson, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, Pep Boys, and AutoZone Inc. are also named. As contributors to his cancer diagnosis. All but Whitaker, Clark and Daniels settled before the trial began in April.
Clark and Daniels Whitaker have been a major supplier of talc to many companies, including Revlon, Avon, and Chanel.
The talc company recently settled a similar case with a California woman who said that mesothelioma was caused by contaminated talc. The unannounced settlement came four days after proceedings began in the same California Supreme Court, and just one week after the McNeill trial ended.
Increased exposure to unoccupied asbestos
Whitaker, Clark, and Daniels continue to insist that their talc is safe and does not cause cancer, but has been fighting accusations from mesothelioma patients since 2015.
The first case against the company involved a New York woman who received $7 million in damages when it was ruled that asbestos-contaminated talcum powder in desert flower powder led to mesothelioma.
In 2016, talc used in a barbershop resulted in a record $18 million judgment against Whitaker, Clark and Daniels after the son of a barber there was diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Although the majority of affected talc cases involve ovarian cancer, the number of mesothelioma cases has increased significantly in the past few years.
According to KCIC, a respected advisory firm that manages asbestos product liabilities, there has been a steady decline in traditional mesothelioma lawsuits caused by occupational exposure to asbestos in the past three years. However, there was also a rise in cases of talc and non-occupational exposure to asbestos during the same time period.
Non-occupational exposures increased from 33% to 45% for men and from 46% to 57% for women.
The issue of polluted talc, considered the world’s softest mineral, stems from where it is mined near the surface of the Earth. Talc and asbestos deposits are often found in close proximity.
Talc suits are becoming more and more popular
The regularity of mesothelioma-related lawsuits involving talc is expected to continue to increase in the coming months across the country, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant backlog in civil lawsuits.
Another talc jury trial involving cosmetic talc and mesothelioma opened May 5, one of the first trials in Washington state since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down a year ago. In opening statements, the plaintiff’s attorneys blamed the use of Johnson’s baby powder for mesothelioma cancer.
Johnson & Johnson said it faces more than 25,000 lawsuits related to various talc products that allegedly caused cancer, mainly due to asbestos contamination.
According to regulatory filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Johnson & Johnson has committed nearly $4 billion to talc-related litigation.
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