Williams, et al. v. BASF Catalyst, LLC, et al.
Public Justice filed an amicus brief in New Jersey federal court challenging the claim by talc producer BASF Catalyst, the law firm Cahill Gordon & Reindel, and a number of individually named defendants that they can’t be sued for lying to asbestos victims and the courts about the existence of asbestos in BASF’s talc products, and for destroying and withholding evidence.
The complaint in this case, which was filed on behalf of victims of asbestos-related diseases and their families, claims that BASF and its lawyers conspired over the course of 25 years to hide the fact that BASF’s talc contained deadly asbestos. As a result of the cover-up, the complaint alleges, members of the class who had been exposed to BASF’s hazardous talc either did not pursue injury claims against the company or had their claims dismissed by the courts.
BASF and Cahill Gordon each filed motions to dismiss the case based on a “litigation privilege” recognized by New Jersey law that protects against civil liability for communications made “to achieve the objects of litigation.” The defendants argued that their activities should be protected by the privilege because it was intended “to obtain in the asbestos cases favorable results, which is the ultimate goal in any litigation.” However, as Public Justice’s amicus brief notes, the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2006 admonished in Loigman v. Township Committee of Township of Middletown that “[s]eeking truthful, accurate, and non-tainted testimony . . . is the objective of every litigated case.” The amicus brief explains that the litigation privilege does not apply to communications related to a conspiracy to hide a public health hazard.
Michael Quirk of Williams Cuker Berezofsky in New Jersey was principal author of the brief. Public Justice Executive Director Arthur Bryant, Public Justice Goldberg Attorney Amy Radon, and Public Justice Foundation Board Member Esther Berezofsky, of Williams Cuker Berezofsky, assisted with