Talc, the mineral from which talcum powder is made, is rather innocuous by itself. However, because its chemical makeup and geologic formation is similar to tremolite, a form of asbestos, deposits of the two substances often are located near each other. This proximity creates the possibility for contamination of the talc, and plaintiff’s attorneys are taking advantage of that possibility.
Plaintiffs have been increasingly bringing – and winning – mesothelioma cases alleging exposure from contaminated talc. Recent verdicts include:
July 2012: DE court renders $2.86 million verdict against RT Vanderbilt for mesothelioma from alleged exposure to talc powder.
Dec. 2012: NY court renders $4.4 million verdict versus Ford Motor Company and Southern Talc Corporation for alleged exposure to asbestos-containing talc that Johns Manville used in its asphalt roofing plant.
Nov. 2013: NJ court awards $3.35 million in compensatory damages against RT Vanderbilt and Hammill & Gillespie, Inc. The punitive damages phase of the trial is scheduled to begin later this month.
Nov. 2013: NJ court renders $1.6 million verdict against Whittaker, Clark and Daniels, Inc., for alleged exposure to cosmetic talc.
The last case is noteworthy for multiple reasons. First, the plaintiff was an insulator. Although that is a familiar line of work for asbestos plaintiffs, the interesting part here is that the plaintiff alleged no asbestos exposure from insulating. His exposure evidence instead focused solely on asbestos-contaminated talc.
Second, the alleged exposure came from cosmetic talc. Whereas industrial talc – which is used in various paper, plastic, and ceramic materials – is allowed to have a minimal level of asbestos contamination, cosmetic talc is stringently tested and supposed to be asbestos-free.
If cosmetic talc cases become increasingly viable, a host of companies that had previously considered themselves immune from asbestos lawsuits may find that is no longer the case.