BASF and its Law Firm Settle a Class Action Fraud Lawsuit
Numerous companies are under legal attack for their marketing products made from or using talc powder. The general claim is that talc powder is tained by asbestos and causes cancer. German chemical giant BASF has now agreed to pay $72 million to settle a class action lawsuit that alleged that its product caused cancer. Both BASF and its previous lawyers were facing fraud allegations over the way that they handled previous lawsuits. Now, thousands of prior plaintiffs who had their lawsuits dismissed or settled their lawsuits for pennies on the dollar may be entitled to financial compensation if they make a claim with the settlement fund.
BASF Allegedly Hid Evidence that its Talc Powder Contained Asbestos
The allegations in this lawsuit stem from conduct that happened in the 1970s and 1980s. BASF was sued at the time by thousands of plaintiffs who claimed that the company's talc products contained asbestos. This is a similar allegation that companies such as Johnson & Johnson have faced with talc powder products. The specific complaint arises because asbestos and talc occur near each other in the ground. When talc is mined, it often ends up containing traces of asbestos. Thus, plaintiffs who have used talc powder products have made claims that they have developed cancer.
There has been a long line of research dating back to the 1960s that have showed the presence of asbestos in talc. However, the makers of talc products have strenuously denied such claims. Here, the lawsuits were filed and the company defended them by denying that its talc had asbestos. In order to successfully argue that defense, the company destroyed evidence that showed that its products were in fact tainted. It was assisted in this improper course of conduct by the law firm of Cahill, Gordon & Reindel, a century-old white shoe New York City law firm. By destroying evidence, BASF was successful in either getting cases dismissed in court or settling them for as little as thousands of dollars. By getting rid of the evidence, they allegedly denied thousands of plaintiffs the chance to get their fair recovery.
The settlement covers plaintiffs who filed lawsuits between 1984-2011 and either voluntarily dismissed their lawsuits due to a settlement or had their cases dismissed by a judge. The defendants settled the case, but as is the case in many lawsuit settlements, they continue to deny any type of wrongdoing. This particular lawsuit was originally dismissed by the court in 2012 before a federal appeals court revived it in 2017.
The Company Has Allegedly Been Engaged in a Coverup for Three Decades
Evidence of the company's decades-long pattern of conduct began to emerge in a 2009 asbestos lawsuit against BASF. There, a former research scientist revealed that the company knew for years that its talc had been tainted with asbestos and covered up that knowledge. The coverup dates all the way back to a lawsuit that was filed in 1979 against the company. BASF settled that case and the pre-trial evidence was placed under seal. That freed the company to begin erasing other evidence that plaintiffs would use against it in court. After this case, BASF began to argue that its talc powder had no asbestos.
Now, a federal judge in the case will need to approve the settlement. If that occurs, those who have been impacted will be free to file their own claims against the fund and wait for their money.
The settlement has no bearing on the Johnson & Johnson cases. It does not admit that there is asbestos in talc powder. There are nearly 20,000 talc powder lawsuits brought against the company by plaintiffs who claim that they got cancer from using talc powder. In 2018, a Missouri jury hit the company with a $4.69 billion verdict in a lawsuit brought by 23 women who claimed that they got ovarian cancer after years of using talc powder. Much of this jury verdict consisted of punitive damages as the jury reacted viscerally to the fact that Johnson & Johnson also allegedly knew for years that this product was tainted. The verdict was recently reduced to $2.1 billion, but it still remains a steep verdict.
This particular settlement is also not the end of all asbestos litigation for BASF. It just addresses a subset of cases relating to talc powder that were previously filed. The company still has large potential asbestos liability.
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