In the first civil jury trial in Los Angeles County since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the jury awarded a $4.8 million verdict to a 73-year old Vietnam War veteran against talc supplier Whittaker Clark & Daniels (WCD). WCD was for decades one of the largest cosmetic talc suppliers in the U.S. Willie McNeal, who suffers from pleural mesothelioma, was successful in establishing that WCD supplied talc contaminated with asbestos that was used in the Old Spice Talcum Powder that he had used daily for 22 years. McNeal had filed his lawsuit against more than a dozen companies, including Shulton Inc. (the manufacturer of Old Spice), Johnson & Johnson, and AutoZone Inc., alleging that the companies supplied contaminated talc. All other defendants except WCD settled before trial.
At trial, McNeal claimed that WCD was a major talc supplier to Old Spice and had been aware that the talc it extracted from its North Carolina talc mine, which it was also claimed, the company knew to contain asbestos. The jury allocated 42% of the responsibility for the plaintiff’s illness to WCD, also assessing blame against additional defendants Bendix, R.J. Reynolds, and Shulton, Inc.
Counsel for Mr. McNeal, Simon Greenstone Panatier noted that notwithstanding the logistical challenges presented by trying the case during the pandemic, “our trial court, with the guidance of a very detailed trial plan, maneuvered around those challenges seamlessly.”
WCD was also hit with an $18 million verdict in 2016 awarded to Philip Depoian who suffered from mesothelioma he claimed was caused in part by talc supplied by WCD. In addition to supplying talc to Shulton, Inc., WCD’s talc has also been used in other products including cosmetics manufactured by Revlon Inc. The company is a defendant in a suit filed in 2020 by a plaintiff who alleges her mesothelioma was caused by WCD’s contaminated talc in Revlon products.