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California Talcum Powder Trial

A recent talcum powder lawsuit in California settled mid-trial after the plaintiff put forth significant evidence to prove the talcum powder she used contained asbestos. Asbestos exposure has been proven to be toxic and potentially fatal. It has been connected to mesothelioma–a fatal cancer of the tissue lining the heart, lungs, and other organs–and ovarian cancer. 

The case went to trial in Los Angeles, California in April 2021. After the plaintiff successfully demonstrated that talcum powder in her possession contained asbestos, the talc supplier and defendant Whittaker Clark & Daniels, Inc. settled the case during trial.

California Talcum Powder Trial

A former teacher and plaintiff Linda Zimmerman was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2018 after using talcum powder products every day for 64 years. She is now terminally ill. 

After her mesothelioma diagnosis was confirmed in 2018, she underwent a 10-hour surgery and then recovered at a care center where she had radiation daily from mid-October to November 2018. Following the radiation, she developed pneumonitis–a scarring-like condition–and had to take immunosuppressant steroids. 

She sued Whittaker Clark & Daniels, Inc. for supplying the toxic talc to companies making talcum powder for beauty products. These products include Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder, Avon Unforgettable, Jean Nate, and Chanel Number Five. Whittaker is a supplier of minerals, colors, and chemicals.  The company sold asbestos from the 1940s through the 1960s. 

Two of the remaining bottles of the beauty products found in Zimmerman’s possession were found to contain asbestos; however, neither bottle contained a warning label about the possible asbestos contamination or the dangers of asbestos exposure. Zimmerman’s attorney, Leah Kagan, said: “Whittaker manufactured and ground-up raw talc, and sold it to cosmetic companies. Whittaker knew its talc had asbestos.”

Materials Scientist’s Testimony in the Zimmerman Case

Dr. William Long of Materials Analytical Services is a materials scientist who testified at the trial about his finding that miners are unable to avoid contaminating their talc with nearby veins of asbestos. He said, “It’s actually growing in the talc mine itself!” 

Dr. Longo explained that the talc mined for talcum powder products and asbestos can occur together in the mines. Although the asbestos does not grow mixed in with the talc, it can be found above or below the talc layer (called a “lens”). Therefore, miners can either dig through the asbestos to reach their talc lines or (in open-pit mines) dislodge the talc with dynamite blasts. These are both ways of inadvertently stirring the materials together. Dr. Longo said: “You’re dealing with a microscopic mineral. You cannot avoid it. And they’ve never been successful, in my opinion, in avoiding where the accessory minerals are.”

Pathologist’s Testimony in the Zimmerman Case

Mayo Clinic pathologist Dr. Theresa S. Emory testified at the trial and told the jury that Zimmerman’s daily application of talcum powder meant that she was exposed to several thousandfolds the normal background amount of asbestos. The background amount is the number of asbestos people would normally breathe in from ambient air and is not considered a threat.

Zimmerman’s Case Settled During Trial

Linda Zimmerman’s case against Whittaker Clark & Daniels, Inc. settled mid-trial in April 2021 after the materials scientist and pathologist testified before the jury about the dangers of the asbestos Zimmerman was exposed to. The details of the settlement are confidential.

Why This Case Matters

In this case, the plaintiff was able to successfully prove that the talcum powder products she used were dangerous and were contaminated with asbestos. 

This is an important development because J&J has consistently denied its talc-based products contained asbestos. This trial found that asbestos can still be found in some beauty products consumers may be using today. 

There are tens of thousands of lawsuits filed against J&J alleging that their Baby Powder talcum powder product was dangerous and resulted in the development of ovarian cancer. Some of these cases are headed for bellwether trials in 2021. The courts use these bellwether trials when there are large quantities of plaintiffs whose lawsuits have the same theory or claim. 

In bellwether trials, specific individual plaintiffs are chosen and their cases are brought to trial. Trying these individual representative cases gives plaintiffs and defendants more information about the litigation as a whole and allows for more accurate valuation of the entire group of plaintiffs’ claims.

How GoldenbergLaw Can Help

If you or a loved one was diagnosed with mesothelioma or ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder, contact GoldenbergLaw today. We have more than thirty years of experience providing the Gold standard of advocacy for our clients. Call today and leave the sleepless nights to us!

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