Immigrant Barber’s Mesothelioma Lawsuit Against Talc Company Permitted to Proceed

Before he died of malignant mesothelioma, Vincent Luca recounted a history of exposure to asbestos that tracked his lifelong career as a barber. He and his family filed a lawsuit against Whittaker Clark and Daniels, the company that supplied talc for the Clubman talcum products that he used from 1961 until he retired in 2016, but the company filed a motion for summary judgment. They denied their own role and instead blamed his illness on exposure to naturally-occurring asbestos in the Maletto part of Sicily, Italy, where he lived until the age of 25. After reviewing evidence from both the plaintiffs and the defendants, Justice of the New York County Supreme Court Manuel J. Mendez denied the motion and ordered that the case proceed.

Barber Recalled Liking Scent of Talcum Powder That He Believed Caused His Mesothelioma

In a deposition given before his death from malignant pleural mesothelioma, Mr. Luca testified that he had been born in 1935 and lived in the Maletto part of Sicily until 1960, when he emigrated to the United States. He worked in barbershops in New Jersey and in New York throughout his life, and recalled using Clubman talcum powder to shave and cut his clients’ hair. 

When asked about his memories of using Clubman, Mr. Luca recalled that the powder had a scent that he liked. He remembered the way it smelled when he would apply it, when he would sweep it up, and even when he shook out the jacket he wore at the barbershop. He recalled the good smell of the powder when it raised a cloud of dust. He testified that inhaling those clouds had likely led to his mesothelioma.

Talc Supplier Blames Victim’s Mesothelioma on Childhood Exposure

Despite evidence that their talc had been contaminated with asbestos over the years that it was sold, the attorneys for Whittaker Clark and Daniels insisted that Mr. Luca’s mesothelioma was caused by asbestos in quarries found in Sicily, Italy. Mr. Luca’s attorneys presented evidence that though he had indeed lived in the area, his home had been more than 29 kilometers from those quarries.

Judge Mendez denied the talc company’s motion, pointing to evidence that the company had conducted testing and found asbestos in their product yet had “advocated for its talc as uncontaminated for the use of XRD testing that would not be able to detect any asbestos.” The case will move forward for a jury to make its decision.

If you or someone you love has been exposed to asbestos and diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, we can help. Contact the Patient Advocates at today at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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