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A state appeals court has reinstated a San Francisco cancer patient’s suit against the makers of Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder, which she used for 20 years and later learned that it may have contained potentially lethal asbestos.
Mary Lyons was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, a cancer commonly caused by asbestos, in October 2015. In her lawsuit against Colgate-Palmolive, she said she first used the talcum as a young child in the early 1950s, when her mother powdered her after every bath, and continued using it on her own until the early 1970s.
Colgate-Palmolive started manufacturing Cashmere Bouquet in 1871 and sold it until 1995. The powder’s talc ingredient came from mines in Montana, North Carolina and Italy. A mineralogist who was an expert witness for Lyons said he found asbestos in talc from all three mines, and in Cashmere Bouquet sold during the years that Lyons used it.
Colgate-Palmolive presented expert witnesses who said the powder was free of asbestos. The company disputed Lyons’ contrary evidence and said her case was weakened by her failure to preserve any containers of the powder she had really used, leaving “no more than a possibility” that she had been exposed to asbestos from Cashmere Bouquet.
Superior Court Judge Garrett Wong agreed with those arguments and dismissed the suit without a trial. But the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco ruled Thursday that the declaration by Lyons’ expert witness, which was supported by another witness with scientific credentials, provided enough evidence to send the case to a jury.
Based on that evidence, jurors could conclude that “all or most of the Cashmere Bouquet that (Lyons) used nearly daily for 20 years contained harmful asbestos,” Justice Stuart Pollak said in the 3-0 ruling.
He said there was no evidence that Lyons had been exposed to asbestos from any other source, so the only question — a factual dispute for a jury to resolve — was whether the talcum powder contained a harmful level of asbestos.
Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @egelko
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