A Los Angeles jury awarded $13 million to a 73-year-old woman who contracted a deadly disease from using asbestos-containing talcum powder manufactured by Colgate-Palmolive Co.
Jurors deliberated for two hours Tuesday before finding that New York-based Colgate was 95 percent responsible for Judith Winkel's mesothelioma, a fatal lung disease, according to her lawyers. The verdict included $1.4 million in damages for her husband.
Winkel's lawyers said she got the rare cancer from using Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder.
"This is an example of the legal system exposing what a company should have been honest about 50 years ago," attorney Chris Panatier said. "Judith Winkel only wanted a jury to hear the truth about this product and hopefully to help others who are similarly exposed."
While billions of dollars have been paid in verdicts and settlements to people sickened by exposure to asbestos, it's often in cases related to use of the mineral in construction materials or insulation. Tiny fibers of the carcinogen can be breathed in and lodge in the lungs, leading to fatal illnesses such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
The Food and Drug Administration conducted a study more than five years ago that found no asbestos in cosmetics it tested containing talcum powder. However, the agency said there's been concern about asbestos contamination in talc since the 1970s. Some studies have shown a possible association between use of talc powders and ovarian cancer but have not conclusively linked the two, the agency said.
Jurors found the company negligent for the design, manufacture or sale of the product and found that it presented a substantial danger that they failed to warn consumers about.
Colgate, which sold Cashmere Bouquet in 1995, said it was disappointed with the verdict.
"We believe that the facts and evidence presented at trial showed that Cashmere Bouquet ... played no part in causing the plaintiff's illness," the company said in a statement.
Panatier said it was the first verdict against Colgate-Palmolive involving asbestos exposure from talcum powder.
An appeals court in New Jersey recently affirmed a $1.6 million verdict awarded to a man with mesothelioma who said he got the disease from cosmetic talc.
In Winkel's case, there will be no appeal. She and Colgate reached a confidential settlement Wednesday before the jury was set to hear evidence to determine punitive damages.