CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Jessica Dean delivering her opening statement
Columbia, SC - A 35-year-old woman suffering from fatal cancer accused four companies on Thursday in South Carolina state court of responsibility for her illness, that she blames on exposure to asbestos allegedly present in cosmetic talc products, and the full trial is being webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.
Plaintiff Sarah Plant claims she developed mesothelioma, a form of cancer affecting the lining of the lungs that is frequently associated with asbestos exposure, due to using cosmetic talc powder products since she was a young child. Her attorneys blamed her exposure on talc supplier Whittaker Clark & Daniels, cosmetics company Mary Kay, makeup pigment company Color Techniques, and talc manufacturer IMI Fabi, arguing use of their products was the only reasonable explanation for her disease.
Attorneys for the four companies all denied any responsibility for Plant’s illness in separate opening statements, telling jurors that scientific studies linking mesothelioma with talc exposure are fundamentally flawed and that there is no way to definitively link Plant’s cancer to her lifelong use of cosmetic talc products from a wide variety of companies, including a number that are no longer active defendants in the case.
The full trial is being webcast and recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network, which has similarly webcast and recorded numerous cosmetic talc trials in recent years as litigation over the supposed presence of asbestos in many popular cosmetic products has skyrocketed.
Attorney Jessica Dean of Dean Omar Branham Shirley described to jurors how Plant and her doctors struggled to find a potential source of asbestos exposure after her mesothelioma diagnosis. She said Plant would never have considered cosmetic talc use as a possibility without the publicity talc-related litigation generated in recent years.
Dean argued talc manufactures, distributors and cosmetic companies knew for years that talc-based cosmetic products contained asbestos, but that the public was never informed in order to protect the sales of popular brand-name products.
Attorney Robert Thackston of Lathrop Page GPM, representing Whittaker Clark & Daniels, told jurors his client subjected their talc to extensive testing for asbestos, which he claimed proved it was safe to distribute.
He pushed back on allegations that talc itself is carcinogenic, noting that studies of workers in talc mines with dramatically higher exposure to the mineral than Plant’s have mesothelioma rates that are roughly consistent with the general population.
CVN screenshot of defense attorney Robert Thackston delivering his opening statement
Attorney Christopher Schwegmann of Lynn Pinker Hurst & Christopher Schwegmann, representing Mary Kay, argued to jurors that the duration of Plant’s use of their product was minimal compared to those from other companies like Johnson & Johnson, which is no longer an active defendant in the case. He also detailed the steps Mary Kay takes in vetting sources of talc for their cosmetics.
Attorneys for Color Techniques and Imi Fabi made similar arguments that their products were carefully screened for asbestos and did not pose a risk to the public.
Opening statements were originally slated for Tuesday, however Mary Kay and Whittaker Clark & Daniels removed the case to federal court earlier that morning arguing the only South Carolina-based defendant in the case, Rite Aid, had been dismissed from the case - a move that was sharply criticized from the bench by retired Chief Justice Jean Toal of the Supreme Court of South Carolina, who now presides over the state’s consolidated asbestos docket.
U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Anderson, Jr. remanded the case to state court immediately following oral arguments on Wednesday.
The South Carolina trial is expected to take roughly two-weeks to complete, and CVN’s live and on-demand gavel-to-gavel coverage will continue for the duration of the proceedings.
The case is captioned Sarah J. Plant v. Avon Products Inc., et al., case number 2022CP4001265 in South Carolina’s Fifth Judicial Circuit Court.
E-mail David Siegel at firstname.lastname@example.org