A California Appeals Court will allow a cancer patient’s lawsuit against the maker of a talcum powder that may have contained lethal levels of asbestos to go to trial.
Mary Lyons’ Mesothelioma
Mary Lyons was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in October 2015. Malignant mesothelioma is a cancer commonly caused by asbestos. Asbestos can be inhaled and ingested without knowledge and remain dormant for decades before causing health problems. The period between initial asbestos exposure and mesothelioma diagnosis ranges from 10 to 50 years. Lyons claims that she used Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder from the early 1950s to the early 1970s and that she had no other known exposure to asbestos.
Colgate-Palmolive manufactured Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder from 1871 to 1995. Cashmere Bouquet’s talc came from mines in Montana, North Carolina, and Italy. Lyon’s expert witness found asbestos in talc from each of the three mines and in Cashmere Bouquet during the years that Lyons used it. Commercial talcum products were not required to be asbestos-free until 1973.
Colgate moved for summary judgment against Lyons. It presented a geologist’s opinion that Cashmere Bouquet never contained asbestos, so it could not have been the source of Lyons’ mesothelioma. In the alternative, Colgate argues that Lyons could not produce any of the bottles that she used and prove that those specific bottles contained asbestos.
A San Francisco Superior Court judge granted summary judgment to Colgate. Lyons moved for reconsideration. She introduced testimony by an expert who opined that he tested 50 vintage containers of Cashmere Bouquet and all of them contained asbestos. The motion for reconsideration was denied and Lyons appealed.
In her appeal, Lyons argued that the trial court’s order was “sparse and nonspecific,” that the fact that she didn’t have any of the old bottles of the Cashmere Bouquet didn’t mean that she could not prove they contained asbestos by other means, and that evidence showed that Colgate had sourced talc from mines that were contaminated with asbestos.
The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco agreed with Lyons’ arguments. It found that Lyons’ expert’s testimony was sufficient to send trial to jury because based on the evidence, jurors could conclude that “all or most of the Cashmere Bouquet that (Lyons) used almost daily for 20 years contained harmful asbestos.”
In April 2015, a California court ordered Colgate-Palmolive Co. to pay $12.4 million to a woman with mesothelioma after a jury found that Cashmere Bouquet was the main cause of her disease. Plaintiff Judith Winkel said that she regularly used Cashmere Bouquet from 1961to the mid-1970s and presented evidence that, during those years, Colgate got its talc for the powder from mines in Montana, North Carolina, and Northern Italy that were known to be contaminated.
In 2013, a jury awarded $2 million to a New Jersey women when it found talc supplier Whittaker, Clark & Daniels responsible for her mesothelioma. In this case, evidence showed that the woman’s father brought home factory clothes that were covered in asbestos-laced talc.