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Talc supplier hit with $29M verdict in South Carolina trial


(Reuters) — A South Carolina jury has ordered former talc supplier Whittaker, Clark & Daniels to pay $29.14 million to a woman who said she developed mesothelioma from being exposed to asbestos-tainted talc in cosmetic products.

The jury in Columbia on Friday also found that talc manufacturer IMI Fabi was not responsible for plaintiff Sarah Plant’s illness, clearing it of liability, according to Jessica Dean, a lawyer for the plaintiff.

Cosmetics company Mary Kay and makeup pigment maker Color Techniques were also defendants but were dropped mid-trial after reaching confidential agreements with Ms. Plant. The trial was the first over talc claims against Mary Kay, according to Ms. Dean.

She said the verdict against Whittaker was just but that she wished the case could have been resolved before trial.

“I just hope we can figure out a better way than having juries resolve (cases) every time,” she said. “It’s truly horrible for our clients who don’t have time.”

A lawyer for Whittaker declined to comment, and Italy-based IMI Fabi did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Whittaker is no longer in business, and its corporate successor is a U.S. arm of Germany-based chemical company Brenntag SE, according to court records.

Ms. Plant, now 36, sued the companies last year. She said she developed mesothelioma, a deadly cancer, at age 35 after using a variety of talc products since early childhood that contained asbestos.

Leading talc product maker Johnson & Johnson had also been a defendant in the case but was not part of the trial because it transferred its talc liabilities to a subsidiary that it placed in bankruptcy. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January rejected that bankruptcy strategy, and Ms. Dean said she hoped Ms. Plant would have a chance to take the company to trial as well.

Whittaker, Clark & Daniels last year won a reversal of a $16 million verdict in a similar cosmetic talc case against it in New York.

The case is Plant v. Avon Products Inc., et al., South Carolina Court of Common Pleas in Richland County.