May 1, 2015 — A jury in Los Angeles has awarded $13 million to a 73 year-old woman who developed cancer after using an asbestos-containing talcum powder product made by Colgate-Palmolive Co.
The unanimous jury found that Colgate-Palmolive’s “Cashmere Bouquet” talcum powder caused Judith Winkel to develop mesothelioma, a highly-aggressive form of lung cancer caused by asbestos.
Colgate-Palmolive was found 95% liable for Winkel’s injuries after the jury decided the company knew or should have known about the dangers of asbestos since the 1930s, but failed to adequately warn consumers or remove asbestos from their product.
The jury would have been asked to consider awarding punitive damages, which might have added millions more to the verdict. However, Colgate-Palmolive agreed to an out-of-court settlement with the plaintiff.
Winkel allegedly started using Cashmere Bouquet in 1961 and continued using it nearly every day until 1976. Each time she shook the powder out of the container, she said it created “a little cloud, like a dust cloud” and then applied it to her skin.
Colgate-Palmolive used talc from three mines that were known to be contaminated with asbestos as early as the 1940s, according to the lawsuit. Testing by Colgate-Palmolive confirmed that asbestos could be found in the mines, but the FDA and consumers were never informed.
Winkel was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January 2014 and has had surgery to treat the life-threatening disease. The median life expectancy for mesothelioma ranges from 12-21 months, with approximately 40% living beyond one year and 20% living beyond two years.
Talc is widely-used in cosmetic products like baby powder. In its natural form, some talc contains asbestos fibers. All talcum products used in home in the United States have been asbestos-free since the 1970s, according to the American Cancer Society. Talc that contains asbestos is generally accepted as being able to cause cancer if it is inhaled.
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