Jury Awards $15M in Talc Product Liability Case

Legislation & Litigation

A Connecticut jury awarded $15 million to the family of a man who died of mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos at work more than half a century ago. The jury concluded 81-year-old Nicholas Barone developed mesothelioma from contaminated talc used in plastics manufacturing.

Lawyers for Kathryn Barone, Nicholas Barone’s widow, presented evidence he was exposed to asbestos-contaminated talc between 1965 and 1967 while working as a process engineer at a General Electric plant in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. GE purchased talc from International Talc Co., which sold hundreds of thousands of pounds of talc for use in phenolic molding compounds. 

Vanderbilt Minerals LLC purchased International Talc in 1974. It only took the jury 2 hours to reach a verdict, finding Vanderbilt Minerals responsible as the owner of and successor to International Talc. 

Barone, a father of three, died in June 2023. Brian Kenney, a Connecticut-based asbestos lawyer, represented Kathryn Barone and the Barone estate.

“We are so grateful to have had an attentive and smart jury,” Kenney told the Connecticut Post. “This was a complicated case that took many weeks to develop. The jury remained focused throughout and ultimately provided a fair and just result for a family who lost a wonderful man to an asbestos-related cancer he never should have developed.”

The jury found a “reckless indifference to others because of [Vanderbilt Mineral’s] efforts to suppress knowledge that its talc contained asbestos.” They also found the company responsible for punitive damages. The amount of compensation for punitive damages will be decided later.

Vanderbilt Minerals claims it’s not responsible for International Talc’s materials. The global supplier of raw materials and chemicals claims none of its materials contain asbestos. The company lost a similar mesothelioma lawsuit in March 2023. The jury in that case awarded $20 million to the widow of a Rhode Island man diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Talcum Powder and Asbestos

Mesothelioma lawsuits involving asbestos-contaminated industrial talc have been litigated across the U.S. for at least 20 years. While asbestos has been found in talc-based consumer goods including crayons, toys, baby powder and makeup, industrial talc may present increased risk. 

Higher levels of asbestos can be found in industrial talc, reaching as much as 50% to 70%. Comparatively, testing of cosmetic talc dating back to the 1960s has shown contamination levels up to 30%.

Talc and asbestos are both naturally occurring minerals that form near each other, making asbestos-contamination of talc a serious concern. Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma and can cause a number of benign and malignant asbestos-related diseases. Certain occupations, such as manufacturing, may pose a higher risk of asbestos exposure.

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