A California jury recently awarded $22 million to the estate of a man exposed to asbestos-containing talc that was used in paint manufacturing, expanding the liability of those supplying the toxic ingredient.
Plaintiff Richard Booker, who worked as a paint maker throughout his career, died of mesothelioma in 2016. The lawsuit claimed Booker was exposed to asbestos while working for Dexter Midland Chemical Co. and Walter N. Boysen Paint Co.
The lucrative award includes $4.6 million in punitive damages, along with the initial judgement of $17.57 million for malice on the part of Vanderbilt Minerals and Imerys Talc America Inc. The jury ruled the two companies shared responsibility for marketing, selling and distributing the talc product.
Talc is a clay mineral composed of hydrated magnesium silicate, used in paints for its ability to resist heat and deter grease and oil absorption.
It also is used as an ingredient in ceramics, insecticides, roofing materials, rubber, talcum powder and the pulp and paper industry.
There is an ongoing debate about the safety of talc, with thousands of lawsuits linking talc to ovarian cancer. Additionally, several talc products in the past contained traces of asbestos dust, stemming from their naturally occurring proximity to each other on the earth’s surface.
Asbestos exposure can lead to a number of serious health problems, including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
The $22 million award comes in the wake of multiple lawsuits filed against Colgate Palmolive for its Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder. The company resolved 43 cases in 2017 involving asbestos-contaminated talc, according to Bloomberg News. There are hundreds more yet to be settled.
The latest settlement involved a Pennsylvania woman who developed mesothelioma, blaming it on the talcum powder used more than 20 years before.
The majority of the asbestos-contaminated talc lawsuits today have involved talcum powder, which has been used for generations by millions of Americans to dry, perfume and protect their skin.
Researchers have debated for decades the possible connection between contaminated talc and various cancers.
Talcum powder products are now considerably safer than they once were, but cancers emerging today often stem from exposure decades ago. The majority of lawsuits involve ovarian cancer.
Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer with no definitive cure. Asbestos exposure is the overwhelming cause.
Booker’s case was held in the Superior Court of California for Alameda County. The jury ruled Booker died from mesothelioma caused by various forms of asbestos found in the talc used during his career in paint manufacturing.
“Plaintiffs allege the talc contained fibrous minerals, including but not limited to anthophyllite, tremolite, chrysotile, and other asbestos minerals, transitional fibers, and asbestiform talc,” Booker’s original filing said.
The jury cited its ruling on the basis of negligence, product design defect and a failure to warn.
Imerys, which continues to insist its product is safe, is the world’s leading talc producer.