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From Products Liability Law Daily, December 13, 2017

Talc companies must pay deceased worker’s family $17.57M in compensatory damages, $4.6M in punitive damages

By John W. Scanlan, J.D.

The family of a paintmaker who died after developing mesothelioma was awarded $4.6 million in punitive damages by a California state court jury against Imerys Talc America. This award followed an earlier $17.57 million jury award for compensatory damages, 60 percent of which was allocated to Vanderbilt Minerals, LLC and 40 percent to Imerys (Booker v. Vanderbilt Minerals, December 11, 2017, Smith, W.).

The decedent worked from 1969 to 1993 as a paintmaker and tinter for Walter N. Boysen Paint Co. and Dexter-Midland Chemical Co., where he allegedly was exposed to asbestos-containing talc used in the manufacture of paint. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2015, after he had retired, and he died in 2016. His surviving wife, children, and grandchildren brought claims for strict liability design defect, failure to warn, and manufacturing defect, along with various negligence, fraudulent concealment, and conspiracy claims, in California state court against various manufacturers, sellers, and distributors of asbestos-containing talc products, as well as Met Life, the insurer of some of the companies. The family also asked for punitive damages.

Jury verdict. The jury recently determined that the paintmaker died from mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos in Imerys and Vanderbilt products, and that both companies were liable on both strict liability and negligence claims. It awarded the paintmaker $440,000 for his economic damages and his wife $500,000 for her pre-death damages and $7.63 million for her post-death damages. Each of his two grandchildren were awarded $3 million and each of his three grandchildren were awarded $1 million.

Finding that both companies had acted with "malice, fraud, and oppression" that was authorized by one or more officers, directors, or managing agents, the jury subsequently awarded $4.6 million in punitive damages against Imerys, as Vanderbilt had settled with the family before punitive damages were awarded.

The case is No. RG15796166.

Attorneys: Joseph D. Satterley (Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood) for Cheryl Booker. Samuel D. Jubelirer (Dentons US LLP) for Imerys Talc America, Inc. and Vanderbilt Minerals, LLC.

Companies: Imerys Talc America, Inc. and Vanderbilt Minerals, LLC

MainStory: TopStory JuryVerdictsNewsStory CausationNews WarningsNews AsbestosNews DamagesNews CaliforniaNews

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