In America, getting a haircut is a common part of an adult’s regular monthly or bi-monthly routine. Depending on the style of cut one gets, it is also not uncommon for a barber to use talcum powder on a freshly shaved portion of the customer’s skin. Unfortunately for one particular customer in New Jersey, this regular sprinkling of talcum powder happened to be the cause of mesothelioma. While the case is still on-going and opening statements have nearly opened this can of worms, New Jersey courts will surely have a significant case on their hands.
In the recent March 2020 hearing, the plaintiff addressed the issue of the presence of asbestos in the talc used at the barbershop as one of mesothelioma causes – this talc being of the brand called “Clubman”. Stemming back to the partnership in which American International Industries purchased the Clubman brand back in 1987, no appropriate asbestos testing had taken place on the products. According to the plaintiff, this was a risk that a reasonably prudent corporation should have addressed over the past couple of decades. As such, the company continued using and selling the same talcum powder to consumers.
As the asbestos is not easily detected through sight, smell or taste, the average consumer will not be able to detect the presence of asbestos in a product on their own. As such, it is up to the provider of these products to use sufficient testing methods to make sure their product is safe before hitting the shelves of local stores.Not doing so can result in asbestos exposure being one of the main mesothelioma causes.
One former hairdresser of the barbershop served as one of the plaintiffs to the New Jersey suit. As a former hairdresser, she would regularly sprinkle the Clubman talc on the back of patrons’ necks. During this process, she would also be exposed to the product. Working for the barbershop from 1972 until 2016, when she was diagnosed with mesothelioma, it should come as no surprise that the asbestos did, in fact, impact her health.
Additionally, a former patron of the barbershop would serve as a co-plaintiff to the suit. This former patron visited the barbershop from 1975 until 2016 to get his hair cut. The talcum powder was used on the back of his neck each time he visited.
The attorney for the plaintiffs did acknowledge the presence of asbestos in other areas of the co-plaintiffs’ lives, but points to the Clubman talc product as a substantial cause of the mesothelioma. The company no longer manufactures the Clubman talcum powder and has since switched to a cornstarch-based powder in 2017.
As the defendant, the company refuted the claims that their product was the cause of mesothelioma for the plaintiff. Defending the claims, the company stated that their products did not, in fact, contain any asbestos. Additionally, the company claims that the plaintiffs do not suffer from a form of mesothelioma that can be caused by asbestos exposure.
As for the former hairdresser, her type of mesothelioma diagnosis has nothing to do with asbestos exposure. Additionally, the former patron does not, in fact, suffer from mesothelioma at all, but a form of lung cancer.
The court will now begin hearing expert and witness testimonies beginning the week of March 9, 2020. While the last talc trial seen by this same judge about a month ago resulted in a jury award of $750 million in punitive damages, the judge had to reduce the damages to $186 million due to state limitations.
While several companies have had to pay large payouts for asbestos exposure and mesothelioma causes in recent history, only time will tell the outcome of Lashley v. American International Industries Inc. et al. To learn more about filing a mesothelioma claim, click here.
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