International chemical company BASF Catalyst and its corporate law firm recently asked a New Jersey federal court to dismiss charges that it allegedly lied to asbestos disease victims and their families about the presence of the carcinogenic substance in its talc.
According to Public Justice, an amicus brief was filed in the class-action Williams, et al. v. BASF Catalyst, LLC, et al. case on behalf of the victims and their families, claiming the company and its attorneys should not be able to get away with conspiring to hide the asbestos risk in the talc.
The brief asserts that as a result of BASF’s attempts to conceal the asbestos danger, some members of the class either did not seek injury claims or had their cases dismissed by courts.
Chemical company seeking ‘litigation privilege’
BASF and its corporate law firm are attempting to squeeze their way out of the case through a “litigation privilege” under New Jersey law that reportedly protects companies against civil liability for communications designed to “achieve the objects of litigation,” according to Public Citizen.
Through this protection, the chemical company actually claims that its decision to withhold and destroy evidence was legitimate because it was an attempt to “obtain in the asbestos cases favorable results, which is the ultimate goal in any litigation.”
In the amicus brief, however, Public Justice notes that the ultimate objective in every litigated case is to seek truthful, accurate testimony.
“As the New Jersey Supreme Court has recognized, the goal of litigation is not to win at all costs, as BASF and [its law firm] argue. Rather, the goal of litigation is to search for – and ultimately arrive at – the truth,” noted Public Justice Executive Director Arthur Bryant.
Efforts to conceal asbestos dangers come at the expense of victims
In the Williams class action case, plaintiffs claim an executive with BASF admitted the talc contained asbestos during a personal injury trial decades earlier, but the company’s settlement was on the condition that evidence was kept confidential.
If BASF and its law firm did, indeed, seek to cover up the fact that its talc contained asbestos, it would be the latest example of a troubling trend in which large corporations have sought to protect themselves at the expense of victims.
The victims in the BASF case, who likely suffer from asbestosis, lung cancer or the rare cancer malignant mesothelioma, are not alone, as the World Health Organization estimates approximately 107,000 people around the world succumb to asbestos-related illnesses each year.