UK Citizens Filing Asbestos Talc Claims In U.S. Courts

Legislation & Litigation

Residents of the United Kingdom have been among the growing number of personal injury plaintiffs filing lawsuits in U.S. courts, attributing their diagnoses of mesothelioma cancer to asbestos-contaminated talc.

That should come as no surprise. With the world’s highest per capita incidence rate of mesothelioma, the UK is contributing to the changing face of asbestos litigation in America.

While mesothelioma traced to occupational asbestos exposure among men is dropping, nonoccupational exposure leading to mesothelioma among women is rising.

Asbestos-contaminated talc, sometimes found in health and beauty products, is part of the reason for the growing trend. The burgeoning number of cases linked to talc in recent years  – the first court case came in 2016 – has helped spark the increase in international product liability filings.

Cases Linked to US Products

“You may think that living in the UK, you are not able to file a case within the U.S. court system, but that’s not entirely true,” attorney Daniel Wasserberg, asbestos litigation specialist from New York City, told The Mesothelioma Center at “If you have [asbestos] exposure that relates back to American-branded companies or to products manufactured here in the United States, you may be able to avail yourself of a courtroom in the United States.”

Wasserberg has particular expertise dealing with the issue of asbestos-contaminated talc, which has been found in baby powders, body powders, a wide range of makeup, creams and moisturizers. 

Some cases of contaminated talc involve UK residents who bought products while on vacation in the U.S. Others involve American products sold outside the country. Johnson & Johnson, which faces many contaminated talc cases, manufactures its products in several different countries.

According to the UK’s Health and Safety Executive, an estimated 450 to 500 women there are diagnosed annually with mesothelioma. There also is a 7% annual increase projected each of the coming years, much of it stemming from contaminated talc.

“We are seeing more and more talc manufacturers become defendants in the asbestos litigation,” Wasserberg said. “They are very much part of a newer wave of the asbestos litigation. The talcum powder litigation is here to stay.” 

Johnson & Johnson Leads Talc Litigation

Johnson & Johnson is the biggest name in talc litigation, with close to 40,000 talc lawsuits still pending. Although the company has continued to insist its products are safe, litigation from talc lawsuits, in settlements and verdicts, has exceeded $3 billion, according to the company.

J&J announced in August 2022 that it would discontinue selling its iconic talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in 2023, and is now using a cornstarch-based formulation. It stopped the sale throughout the U.S. and Canada in 2020, citing the avalanche of lawsuits.

Other cosmetics giants facing litigation include Avon, Chanel, Clinique and Estee Lauder. Avon, for example, was recently ordered by a California jury to pay more than $52 million – $10.3 million in punitive damages, in addition to the $40 million in actual damages – to a woman who said her mesothelioma was caused by asbestos-contaminated talc.

Only a small percentage of contaminated talc cases involve mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused almost exclusively by asbestos exposure. The majority of the cases involve ovarian cancer or other serious health issues. 

The talc contamination stems from where the two naturally occurring minerals are found near the Earth’s surface, often in close proximity to one another. 

Although testing for contamination is done, the different methods of testing have varied widely. Often at issue in court has been the lack of a warning on the products where asbestos contamination is possible.

“Attorneys [including our firm] have had success bringing these cases to American courts and getting good results,” Wasserberg said. “People generally think of personal injury lawsuits as being a local practice, but that’s not always the case with asbestos. A claimant may be surprised that their case can be heard here.”

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