Talc Exposure Lawsuit Over Mesothelioma Death Results in $15M Award for Family of Deceased Engineer

Verdict award expected to grow after jury determines punitive damages for mining company plaintiffs say hid the presence of asbestos in its talc.

A Connecticut jury has ordered a mining company to pay $15 million to the family of a man who died of mesothelioma, after determining the company hid the fact that its talc contained asbestos.

Kathryn Barone filed the wrongful death lawsuit against Vanderbilt Minerals LLC, over the death of her husband, Nicholas Barone, who was allegedly exposed to talc contaminated with asbestos while working as a process engineer decades ago.

Mesothelioma is a rare, but serious form of cancer that is only known to occur as a result of exposure to asbestos. Since the cancer is often at a very advanced stage by the time it is diagnosed, individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma typically have a very short life expectancy after diagnosis.

While most talc exposure lawsuits over the development of mesothelioma have specifically targeted Johnson & Johnson, who allegedly sold talcum powder products for decades that were contaminated with asbestos particles, Barone’s claim stemps from exposure to the toxic substance in raw talc, while he worked at a General Electric PLant in Massachusetts from 1965 to 1967.

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According to the complaint, Barone worked at a General Electric plant in Massachusetts from 1965 to 1967. During that time,

While Barone was working at the plant, General Electric bought hundreds of thousands of pounds of talc from International Talc Co.; a company bought by Vanderbilt a few years later. However, the lawsuit claimed the talc, used to make phenolic molding compounds, was contaminated with asbestos.

Barone’s wife claimed the mining company knew about the asbestos and hid the information from regulators and customers. Given the long latency period between exposure to asbestos and the development of mesothelioma, Barone did not discovery the injury until decades later, leading to a slow and painful death, according to the lawsuit.

After just two hours of deliberation, a Connecticut jury ordered Vanderbilt to pay the Barone family $15 million in compensatory damages. However, the jury also determined that the mining company operated with reckless indifference, and has determined the company should pay punitive damages as well. The amount of those damages will be decided at a later date.

Talcum Powder Cancer Lawsuits

This is the second talc asbestos lawsuit Vanderbilt has lost since the beginning of 2023. A previous verdict against the company led to a $20 million jury verdict for another mesothelioma death last year.

The verdict comes as Johnson & Johnson continues to fight more than 70,000 Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits, which involve similar allegations that raw talc ingredients were contaminated with asbestos particles, causing consumers to experience injuries after years of breathing the powder or applying it to their body. While most of the claims involve women diagnosed with ovarian cancer after use around the genitals, a smaller number of claims involve users diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Johnson & Johnson has also been hit with several massive damage awards, where juries found that the manufacturer knew or should have known about talc asbestos exposure risks. However, rather than warning about the risk or removing talc from Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower, the company continued to promote use of the products by adult women.

Rather than negotiating an out-of-court settlement, Johnson & Johnson has previously made several attempts to force the litigation through the U.S. bankruptcy system, by transferring all liability it faces for failing to warn about the link between ovarian cancer and talcum powder to a subsidiary, then having that company declare bankruptcy protections. Although the courts previously rejected two such filings, the company recently announced a new $6.5 billion talcum powder ovarian cancer bankruptcy settlement offer, which plaintiffs’ lawyers have roundly rejected.

The plan does not address talcum powder lawsuits over mesothelioma injuries, but the company indicates it has already resolved 95% of those claims.

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