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Jury Awards $18M to Retired City Government Official


The Worthington Caron Law Firm is pleased to report that on October 19, 2016, a Los Angeles jury awarded $18,070,000 to our clients in a case entitled Depoian v. American International Industries, Inc. et al. (Los Angeles Superior Court Case Number BC607192).

Mr. Depoian was diagnosed with peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma in May 2015 at the age of 67. He had recently retired after a 34-year career in Los Angeles City government, serving as Special Counsel to the Mayor and Executive Director for Government and External Affairs of Los Angeles World Airports.

Throughout his childhood, Mr. Depoian’s father worked as a barber, cutting hair at barbershops and, for friends and family, at the family home. His father used talcum powder (Clubman and Kings Men brands) as a finishing touch when he cut Mr. Depoian’s hair.

Mr. Depoian personally used body and shave talc products (Mennen, Old Spice and Faberge brands) while working as a government official, especially when he travelled, in the 1970s and 1980s.

Mr. Depoian, like all other consumers of talc products, had every reason to believe that the products were safe. However, the tragic fact is that the talc in many of these products was contaminated with asbestos.

For decades, asbestos exposure and asbestos cancer were typically associated with workers in industrial trades or the Navy. In recent years, many men and women with no connection whatsoever to industrial trades or the Navy have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and other forms of asbestos illness. In many cases, their only exposure was to asbestos-contaminated talc in cosmetic talc products.

Through their legal counsel, Worthington & Caron, PC and Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, PC, Mr. and Ms. Depoian filed a lawsuit against 19 companies in January 2016. Settlements were reached with a number of companies before and during the trial which began in September 2016. By the time the case was submitted to the jury only one defendant, Whittaker, Clark & Daniels, remained.

On October 19, the jury returned a verdict of $18,070,000 in favor of Mr. and Ms. Depoian. The jury assigned 30% of fault to Whittaker, Clark & Daniels. The jury also found that the company acted with malice, triggering a second phase of trial to address punitive damages. However, before trial was to resume, the company reached a confidential settlement with Mr. and Ms. Depoian.

"Whittaker was the largest talc supplier in the country and was certifying that its product contained no asbestos, but its testing was inadequate and its certification false and misleading," said trial attorney Jay Stuemke.

The verdict is believed to be the largest award on record for a mesothelioma claim linked to asbestos-contaminated cosmetic talc.