jury in Los Angeles County (Chatsworth) yesterday on April 28, 2015 unanimously found that
Colgate-Palmolive’s Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder, which they sold from the 1930s to 1995, caused our client Judith Winkel’s
malignant pleural mesothelioma.
The jury deliberated just two hours. They found that Colgate failed to
warn consumers about their defective product, among other violations.
The jury also found that Colgate, which denied that their product contained
asbestos, was guilty of malice, which exposed Colgate to possible punitive damages.
On nearly a daily basis from 1961 to 1977, Judith Winkel used Cashmere
Bouquet Talcum powder, primarily after showering. Like every other consumer,
she loved the fragrance but had no idea the silky white powder could later
cause one of the most insidious cancers known to medicine.
This was the first verdict ever against Colgate-Palmolive, whose army of
lawyers argued that their product did not contain asbestos, that Judith
Winkel did not use their product, that her life would not be shortened
by mesothelioma, and that if she was exposed, the amount was too small
to cause mesothelioma.
The jury disagreed, finding that Colgate’s Cashmere Bouquet Talcum
Powder was 95% responsible for Judith Winkel’s mesothelioma. The
evidence showed that Colgate purchased its talc from mines in Italy, North
Carolina, and Montana, and the talc was contaminated with up to 20% asbestos
fiber, including the most toxic form of asbestos (viz., amphibole).
The evidence also showed that scientists had begun detecting asbestos in
talcum powder since 1942, but Colgate did not begin testing its Cashmere
Bouquet for asbestos until 1971. At that time, Colgate was warned that
their talcum powder contained dangerous levels of asbestos. But Colgate
neither alerted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the health
risks, nor did they warn consumers that exposure to their product could
Judith, a 73 year-old retired office clerk, mother and grandmother who
has been married to husband John “Cubby” Winkel since 1964,
was diagnosed with mesothelioma in early 2014. She was operated on by
Dr. Robert Cameron of UCLA Medical School. Dr. Cameron noted that thoracic
surgeons regularly use talcum powder in mesothelioma patients to retard
the spread of the tumor, but when they do so they require that the talcum
powder be certified as “asbestos free.”
“This trial was about accountability,” said John Winkel. “Colgate
made a dangerous product but they refused to admit it. Judy and I are
thankful that the jury was not bamboozled by their shenanigans. Now we
just want to enjoy the time we have.”
The case was tried by our co-counsel, David Greenstone and Chris Panatier,
of Simon Greenstone Panatier and Bartlett (SGPB). A Colgate lawyer proudly
boasted before trial that they would destroy our respective law firms,
the Winkels and our experts. Their lawyer also warned us that their war
chest to win this case was virtually bottomless.
“While we celebrate the first verdict ever against Colgate-Palmolive,
and are thankful for the jury’s service, as well as the courageous
work of our colleagues at SGBP,” said
Roger Worthington of Worthington & Caron, P.C. “We are also mindful that Judy
continues to live with mesothelioma. She and Cubby deserve compensation,
but what they really want is to be able to play with their grandchildren
and tend to their garden. With Dr. Cameron’s expert guidance, we
are hopeful that Judy will be eligible for experimental therapies that
will buy her many more years with her grandchildren and her flowers.”
“Dr. Cameron is an incredible physician,” said Cubby. “We
are so thankful for his dedication. He’s always been there for us.
This is a tough cancer with a bad prognosis but we’re thankful that
Dr. Cameron and his team keep searching for a cure.”