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Woman claimed talcum powder exposed her to asbestos








Los Angeles County


Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles

Injury Type(s):

other-tumor; other-decortication; other-thoracentesis; other-radiation therapy; other-loss of consortium; cancer-mesothelioma

Case Type:

Products Liability – Asbestos, Failure to Warn, Manufacturing Defect

Case Name:

Judith Winkel and John Winkel v. Calaveras Asbestos Ltd., Colgate-Palmolive Company, Caterpillar Inc., DAP Inc., Deere & Company, Henry Company LLC, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, Pfizer Inc., R.T. Vanderbilt Company Inc., Sears Roebuck and Co., The W.W. Henry Company, Union Carbide Corporation, Vanderbilt Minerals LLC and W.W. Henry Company,
No. BC549253


April 28, 2015



John Winkel (Male), 

Judith Winkel (Female, 71 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Christopher J. Panatier;
Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett PC;
John Winkel, Judith Winkel ■ Kyle Tracy;
Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett PC;
Long Beach,
John Winkel, Judith Winkel ■ David C. Greenstone;
Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett PC;
John Winkel, Judith Winkel

Plaintiff Expert(s):

John Maddox; M.D.; Pathology; Newport News,
VA called by:
Christopher J. Panatier, Kyle Tracy, David C. Greenstone ■ Sean Fitzgerald; P.G.; Geology; Greensboro,
NC called by:
Christopher J. Panatier, Kyle Tracy, David C. Greenstone ■ David Fractor; Ph.D.; Lost Earnings (Economics); Pasadena,
CA called by:
Christopher J. Panatier, Kyle Tracy, David C. Greenstone ■ Arnold Brody; M.D.; Cell Biology; New Orleans,
LA called by:
Christopher J. Panatier, Kyle Tracy, David C. Greenstone ■ Ronald Gordon; Ph.D.; Pathology; New York,
NY called by:
Christopher J. Panatier, Kyle Tracy, David C. Greenstone


DAP Inc., 

Pfizer Inc., 

W.W. Henry Co., 

Deere & Company, 

Caterpillar Inc., 

Henry Company LLC, 

The W.W. Henry Co., 

Union Carbide Corp., 

Colgate-Palmolive Co., 

Sears Roebuck and Co., 

Calaveras Asbestos Ltd., 

Vanderbilt Minerals LLC, 

R.T. Vanderbilt Company Inc., 

Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

Defense Attorney(s):

None reported;

Long Beach,
DAP Inc., Pfizer Inc., W.W. Henry Co., Deere & Company, Caterpillar Inc., Henry Company LLC, The W.W. Henry Co., Union Carbide Corp., Sears Roebuck and Co., Calaveras Asbestos Ltd., Vanderbilt Minerals LLC, R.T. Vanderbilt Company Inc., Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. ■ Stephen A. Swedlow;
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP;
Colgate-Palmolive Co. ■ Faith E. Gay;
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP;
New York,
Colgate-Palmolive Co. ■ Christine H. Chung;
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP;
New York,
Colgate-Palmolive Co.


In January 2014, plaintiff Judith Winkel, 71, was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Winkel claimed that she developed the cancer from using Colgate-Palmolive’s Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder product from approximately 1960 until the mid-1970s. Winkel sued Colgate-Palmolive Co., Calaveras Asbestos Ltd., and several other companies. Winkel alleged that the defendants were strictly liable, and brought legal claims of consumer expectations, risk/benefit, failure to warn, manufacturing defect, and negligence. Several of the defendants were dismissed or settled out of the case. Calaveras Asbestos participated in the trial during the plaintiff’s affirmative case and then had a motion for non-suit granted by the judge at the close of plaintiffs’ evidence. Thus, at the time of verdict, only Colgate-Palmolive remained in the case. Plaintiff’s counsel provided evidence that Colgate-Palmolive knew about the hazards of asbestos as early as the 1930s, but that it failed to investigate whether its Cashmere Bouquet powder was contaminated with asbestos. Counsel argued that Colgate-Palmolive should have investigated its Cashmere Bouquet powder because talc products are commonly known to contain asbestos because of the close relationship between the two minerals geologically. Plaintiff’s counsel further argued that Colgate-Palmolive knew the product contained asbestos (tremolite, anthophyllite and chrysotile) when it tested its products in the 1970’s, but that it failed to disclose the results to the public. Thus, counsel contended that Colgate-Palmolive misled the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about its results. Colgate-Palmolive marketed and sold Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder for over 120 years before divesting the brand in 1995. Thus, defense counsel denied that the product caused Winkel’s mesothelioma.


In January 2014, Winkel was diagnosed with diffuse malignant pleural mesothelioma, which is an aggressive, incurable cancer that develops on the lining of the lungs and which often stems from exposure to asbestos. She underwent a number of biopsies and a thoracentesis to drain out fluid created by the tumor. She also underwent radiation treatments and interferon maintenance therapy. In addition, Winkel underwent a pleural tumor decortication, a major surgery designed to increase life expectancy for a few months to a year. Thus, Winkel sought recovery of past medical costs, past and future loss of compensation, and loss of household services and Social Security. Her husband, John Winkel, sought recovery of damages for his loss of consortium.


The jury returned a plaintiffs’ verdict on the strict liability claims of consumer expectations, risk/benefit, failure to warn, and manufacturing defect, as well as on the negligence claim. The jury determined that Colgate-Palmolive was 95 percent responsible for Mrs. Winkel’s mesothelioma and that Colgate-Palmolive had acted with malice. The remaining 5 percent of responsibility was assigned to exposures Mrs. Winkel may have had as a result of small repair jobs completed by her husband as well as exposure she may have received through her father, who worked around construction of buildings. Accordingly, Caterpillar Inc. was assigned 1 percent, Robert Hart & Sons Inc. was assigned 1 percent, Johnson Tractor was assigned 1.5 percent, and Sears Roebuck & Co. was assigned 1.5 percent. The jury determined that the plaintiffs’ damages totaled $13,033,000, including $11,633,000 for Mrs. Winkel and $1.4 million for Mr. Winkel. On the morning after the verdict, prior to the punitive damages phase of trial, the parties agreed to a confidential settlement. Had the case been apportioned, Colgate-Palmolive would have been responsible for $12.4 million, which comprises 95 percent of the non-economic damages, plus 100 percent joint and several liability for the economic damages.

John Winkel: $1,400,000 Personal Injury: loss of consortium; Judith Winkel: $125,000 Personal Injury: Past Medical Cost; $1,000,000 Personal Injury: past compensation; $10,000,000 Personal Injury: future compensation; $508,000 Personal Injury: loss of household services and Social Security

Trial Information:


Randy Rhodes

Trial Length:


Trial Deliberations:


Jury Vote:

Unanimous on all questions

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs’ counsel and counsel for Colgate-Palmolive Co. Counsel for the remaining defendants were not asked to contribute.