Mesothelioma Patient Awarded $1.6 Million for Second Hand Asbestos Exposure

A man diagnosed with mesothelioma recently won $1.6 million in a lawsuit against a talcum powder supplier. The man was exposed to asbestos through contaminated talc brought home on his father’s work clothing.Mesothelioma attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm explain the very real dangers of this type of second hand asbestos exposure.

The plaintiff in this case, Steven Kaenzig, was regularly exposed to raw talcum powder as a child by playing and interacting with his father when he returned home from work. Kaenzig’s father worked at Shulton Inc. from 1967 to 1975, each day coming home covered in talc dust. Shulton manufactured Old Spice and Desert Flower talcum powder products.

When Kaenzig was diagnosed with mesothelioma – an extremely rare and deadly cancer – he filed suit against the company that supplied asbestos-containing talc to Shulton. His case concluded in 2013, with the $1.6 million award to Kaenzig and his wife.

The defendant, Whittaker Clark & Daniels, challenged the decision in the New Jersey Appellate Division. The three-judge panel rejected Whittaker’s challenge, saying Kaenzig’s successfully proved that Whittaker knew that the raw talc it supplied to Shulton contained asbestos, was aware that this was dangerous, and still failed to warn about the talc’s risks.

The panel also found Kaenzig reasonably proved that he was exposed to the talc dust through his father’s work clothing, since his mother cleaned his father’s clothing each day after work, sending talc and asbestos particles into the air. Asbestos-related illnesses are caused by the inhalation of airborne asbestos particles.

It is important to note that the judges in this case did not treat this asbestos exposure case any differently than any other asbestos suit. So-called second hand asbestos exposure (otherwise referred to as bystander, domestic, non-occupational or take home exposure) is not always considered credible in state courts. Fortunately, New Jersey recognizes that cosmetic talcum powder is just as likely to contain asbestos and infect bystanders as any other asbestos-containing product.

Scientific researchers agree that there is no safe level of asbestos – any amount, at any point in a person’s life, can lead to asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma down the road. Of course, the likelihood that someone will ultimately develop one of these asbestos-related illnesses increases if exposure was immense or occurred over a long period of time; but even children exposed to dust from their father’s work clothing are at risk.

This can also apply to employees who do not work directly with asbestos or asbestos-containing products, but who work in the same vicinity. Among the hundreds of studies of persons working with and around asbestos, the term “bystander” changes in definition. There are usually two types of bystanders:

1. Those working in close vicinity to workers with high rates of exposure, such as insulation work.

2. Maintenance workers and building occupants, such as family members.

Both can be used as grounds in a lawsuit claiming exposure to asbestos, but there must be a documented disease. More than 10,000 people are diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness every year, and asbestos is considered to be responsible for about half of all occupational cancer deaths.

Second hand exposure cases rely on the claim that companies knew that asbestos was dangerous but failed to ever warn employees. Because workers had no idea the dust they were taking home on their clothes could cause cancer, they took no precautions to protect their families, loved ones, and themselves, from exposure.

In reality, asbestos was classified as a carcinogen in the 1930s. Companies knew, through individual and independent testing, that this was true, and failed to do anything about it. The resulting flood of litigation against asbestos companies has caused about 100 American companies to go bankrupt, and rightfully so.

Our team of asbestos exposure attorneys has 30 years of experience fighting on behalf of all victims of asbestos-related diseases. If you or someone you love was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancers, or asbestosis, contact our firm immediately. Our case reviews are always free and confidential, and we never charge any attorneys’ fees out of pocket. We only get paid if you do.

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