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Ethical Dilemma-Any Ideas

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I find myself in a weird situation

I got a  strange phone call from a lawyer who is representing a deceased person in the Midwest. He worked his whole life in the slip cast clay industry. The slip had (edited) talc in it, which contained asbestos and was taken off the market back in the early 2000’s

He died of mesothelioma, which is from asbestos exposer.

Anyway this Lawyer saw a very old post on a forum board that I once was active on (not this one) where I had said I had an unopened bag of nytol talc.

This talc was suggested to me my a well known ceramic company (un-named at this point) they actually claim they never had this talc (I have a receipt)

To make a long story short he wants the bag and a sample.

I will add I have a satin matt glaze that uses desert talc or CT-30 talc which I am almost out of and the reason I had that back of nytol was it is a direct substitute for my old desert talc. I ran tests on this bag last fall and it turns out it works fine. I know it’s a special deal as far as handling it but I am willing to work with it with all the precautions, as it’s my only option to maintain this satin matt glaze.

Now this Lawyer wants a sample and the bag –he has yet to make an offer and is feeling me out.

I have already gotten all of the desert talc and from friends I know and have used almost all of it up and this bag is just enough to last the rest of my glaze life.

So I suggested a trade with this guy for a bag of desert talc or CT-30 talc which would be beneficial for both of us-it’s a hard order to fill as the mine closed down 30 years ago in Death Valley. I thought a trade of two rare earth materials was perfect but it looks like he is not finding any Desert talc or CT030 talc for me.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do at this point. It’s a bit of an ethical dilemma.

Any suggestions?

I’m not driven by money as I like my glaze and want to continue its use.

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Don't use anything that contains asbestos!  Although you might use a good mask, asbestos fibers can linger in your studio and on your clothes.  They can be lethal.

My brother, a chartered accountant, worked in the office of a company which made nuts and bolts where asbestos was used on the manufacturing floor.  My brother rarely visited the manufacturing floor.  He died of mesothelioma.  It is not worth the risk.  Mesothelioma can  appear more than 20 years after exposure.  My brother was in pain, became paralysed and eventually lapsed into a coma.  Please don't use this stuff.


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Probably wants the bag for any manufacturer's lot numbers and dates -- to show it was the type of talc being made at time worker became exposed. If is unopened, that is ideal from lawyer's viewpoint. If bag is opened, the opposing parties can state it was contaminated after purchase.


The lawyer will have to disclose where he got the talc -- so, if you cooperate you will likely be facing the other sides lawyers who will want the history of the bag, e.g., potential depositions. When purchased, from where, any receipts, how has it been stored, any contamination, etc. Regardless of your feelings on the suit, by providing the sample you are becoming part of the process. You may end up needed a lawyer to represent your interests and keep theirs at bay.


As far as money; lawyers often take these cases for a percentage of settlement. They win, they collect big. If you've got something they want, they will pay for it. Same goes for the other sides lawyers. They are going to get rich. Think of it this way -- if someone wants to pay you 100x the cost of one of your mugs, do you decline the money they are willing to pay? Its worth is dictated by market; it is worth more than a bag of desert talc. But, whatever you do, if you agree to this, you could be getting more involved than you think.

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Define your dilemma clearly to yourself because it seems to have many layers.

Is it as simple as parting with the bag of talc or is it based around aiding a lawyer you have no reason to believe/trust/ care about? Is it about the lawsuit or the death or your clay income?

Bearing in mind of course the lawyer is probably reading this discussion as we post ... I would probably keep my musings to words I would want quoted somewhere down the line.

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At this point he just made an offer of $150 for 1/2 cup of the talc and the Bag itself.

I have not responded -he would send up an investigator to take custody of it from San Francisco. Thats a 12 hour round trip driving.

I have a distain for Lawyers more than most. I think I may just pass on the whole deal


For those who got mixed up on the talc time line

A long time ago -like the 60's and 70's -80's when you went to a supplier and bought talc it was only one kind often unlabeled

that was Desert talc then CT-30 talc- These mines are long since closed down this was in the west (you east coasters have your own supply chains)

In the 90's -2000s things changed-Texas talc (pioneer etc sprang up) also during this time (edited) from a New York mine owned by Vanderbuilts Minerals Division was found to have asbestos-just like say the vermiculite mine in Montana was exposed to asbestos . Both mines closed The nytol  mine in 2004

Please do not rant on asbestos to me as I know the dangers-its been in ships and schools and boilers and insulation my whole life and its very bad stuff-I would say who knew but it turns out many did know.

I'm choosing to tell you this story as its unfolding _I have a friend who died of mesothelioma

​It works very fast once you get to a certain point and your exposure can be many many decades earlier-they have no idea why some get it and others are immune .

Lawyers go after it as the manufactures set aside a pool of many millions to handle these suits-that I knew 5 years ago.

Lets get back to me and this material-I would love to trade bags but thats looks slim at this point

​I thank you Bruce for your points as they represent my views best so far.


Heck the vermiculite I used to make kiln mortar in the 70's had asbestos and was taken off the market so this kind of thing is more common than you think.

On another note you heard what 2000  dead lawyers on the bottom of San Francisco bay is? 

A pretty good start.

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How about some potholes you may not be looking at.


1. You are sending a sample to a lawyer who is suing someone over the very product you are sending to the plaintiffs lawyer.

2. This means they are in the discovery phase of this trial. Which also means this lawyer has to tell the defendants lawyer where the sample came from and who supplied it. Which also means the defendants lawyer can summons you to give a deposition- and you have to pay for your own expenses. Which  also means the plaintiffs lawyer can also summons you to give a deposition.

3. This is just the evidentiary phase of this lawsuit. So if you have to give a deposition at that point, it also means you will be called as an "expert" witness at the trial. You will probably get to pay for that as well.


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Are you the only person on the planet with a bag of this stuff. Or an easy target he accessed in a simple google search?

As above this will not merely end in a send a sample end of story.

Tell a porky, can't find the stuff, could even send a photo of self tree fishing, would send him away as anything you said will not be believed!!

Ignore it Mark.

Lead the simple life.

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.....a lawyer falls overboard from a cruise ship & a rescue craft comes back to pick him up. The rescuers find him surrounded by sharks but they have not attacked him. Everyone wonders out loud why he wasn't attacked and he replies, "professional courtesy!"

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Mark if this investigator comes onto your premises and handles the asbestos contaminated talc...on your premises... and then gets sick, where does this leave you??

Is the investigator trained on the handling of this substance? Does he have a certificate in hand..., come clad in the full asbestos handling gear on and the bin for the poss. contaminated mask clothes boots etc on leaving your property, funny the lawyer chappie doesn't want his hands dirty... Not opening the bag in his office..

Do you have the appropriate warning signs etc plastered over your studio walls warning whoever enters the dangers lurking there? 'cos you'll need them.

God this isn't an ethical dilemma, a personal survival issue really.

Don't get involved just go fish a river or two.

Must be more evidence around than the bag of stuff in your shed.

It could be fiddled with after it leaves your shed anyway. big bikkies at stake here , your way of life and peaceful gradual retirement phase of pottery.

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This sounds a bit odd to me. Surely anything other than the full, unopened, originally sealed bag with all the maker's/supplier's marks on it is useless to him. A half cup means you have to scoop some out of the bag. That could contaminate it. You'd put it in another bag or screw top container. Ditto. Then he wants the empty bag, so you have to decant the rest into something else? And then Sam Spade or Jim Rockford (not a licensed handler of hazardous materials) will knock at your door, take the bag, (give you a cheque?), put the stuff in the boot of his car and drive off into the sunset. All of that means the stuff he gets is useless as evidence, surely.

Just tell him the bag's been opened for quite a while and won't be any use to him as you can't be sure what implements you've used to take stuff out.


I too have no love of that profession - it seems the quickest way to lose lots of money. At least with the horses there's a chance of getting your money back...

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This is tricky because you have no way of knowing how legitimate this lawyer's intentions are.


I also agree with others here that Nytal from an opened bag doesn't seem useful to anyone, and I wonder why the lawyer would suggest that. And the possibiltiy is very real that you will get dragged into a process of proving that the sample was not contaminated, which sounds like a complete waste of your time.


I thought there was already a judgement against the Nytal mine, which is why the mine closed. Why is this lawyer trying to prove this again?


How much glaze can you make with half-cup of Nytal, and will that amount of glaze result in more than $150 worth of pots? Probably.


I would tell the lawyer "no thanks," and suggest that he keep looking until he finds an unopened bag.

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WOW what a mess.

If I was going to give him any I would get a lawyer to cover my butt from them! Whats to stop them from coming after you for the distribution of

A hazardous substance if something happens and they, (sectary's, the guy transporting it, the shar- oops I mean lawyer could drop the bag...)

Cause a hazardous situation. It could be all on you.


My $ .02 don't get involved.



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Heres the update

first let me add that I had opened this bag last fall.Just so you get the facts right.

Remember the suit is most likely a wrongful death suit.

The companies who made this material set aside over a billion to cover these suits

The lawyers need to prove a connection to the asbestos material to win

This guys client was in the slip cast industry his whole life hence the death and now the suit.


This lawyer found me from a decade old internet post about this material Nytol HR-100 talc.

Yesterday I sent him a no thanks letter as its a mire of trouble that no amount of money can fix.

I Said that I did not want to get swept up in a any part-heck- I said his guy he wanted to send up to get the stuff  from me could sue me for exposure to asbestos.

I'm keeping my opened bag he needs another source for a sample

I'm not involved and will not be-

He has not responded-just like a lawyer as nobody is paying his bill to answer me.

I'm back to tree fishing Babs and glazing a few kiln loads today and in am.

it was a strange deal all around-seems I get these odd balls every few years

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Well on his behalf he called me today to say he respects my decision to pass on the whole deal as he was flying around the country yesterday and did not have time to respond.So He's better than I thought  but I'm out of the whole deal.

He did say he read a post from Oldlady that said she had a bag at one time and asked about-her. so Oldlady I will say I said your impossible to track down and I do not even know your name which may be true as that talc you sent me last year did not have your name on package-but he may still try to dig you up on this issue.I'm said you are impossible to track down.

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