A California jury handed down a $4.8 million verdict Monday against talc supplier Whittaker Clark & Daniels after connecting the company to a 78-year-old man’s mesothelioma diagnosis.
Vietnam War veteran Willie McNeal Jr. suffers from pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the lungs caused by asbestos exposure, and convinced the jury to link Whittaker to his diagnosis due to his 22-year daily use of Old Spice Talcum Powder.
McNeal filed his lawsuit in 2018 against more than a dozen companies that sell or manufacture products that potentially contain asbestos, including Johnson & Johnson and AutoZone Inc.
Whittaker was a major supplier of talc to Old Spice and was aware of asbestos contamination in its talc supply. Whittaker shared a 42% responsibility for McNeal illness, with other companies, including auto brake company Bendix, tobacco company R.J. Reynolds and Shulton Inc., the maker of Old Spice, sharing smaller levels of responsibility. Whittaker has been named in other talc lawsuits, including a 2016 case in Los Angeles Superior Court that resulted in an $18 million jury verdict before the company settled ahead of a punitive damages phase
Talc extracted from the company’s North Carolina talc mine is known to have asbestos contamination. The verdict included $3 million in punitive damages.
The verdict is the first by a civil jury in Los Angeles County since the COVID-19 pandemic shut the court system down in March 2020.