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The world’s largest chemical company recently agreed to a settlement in a class action lawsuit brought by plaintiffs who allege that the company lied about the presence of asbestos in its talc, which caused various types of cancer including mesothelioma. Per the terms of the settlement, German chemical company BASF will set aside $72.5 million for plaintiffs who filed asbestos cancer lawsuits against the company between March 1984 and March 2011, including those whose claims were dismissed or voluntarily withdrawn.

The settlement still awaits the approval of a New Jersey federal judge, and if approved, it would allow BASF to resolve claims covered by the agreed upon time period while not admitting any wrongdoing to the allegations made in the lawsuits. Specifically, the claims concerned Englehard Corp., which BASF acquired in 2006, which produced talc based products used in both industrial settings and consumer products.

According to the asbestos cancer lawsuit, one plaintiff claimed that she developed cancer as a result of secondhand exposure to carcinogenic materials brought home on the clothes of her father, who was a research assistant who claimed that the defendants knew about contaminated talc for years. The case went through years of litigation, during which time the case was dismissed but later resurrected by a federal court that found that the defendants engaged in systemic fraud in order to derail the judicial process.

A New Jersey federal judge recently handed down an order indicating that the court will randomly select 1,000 talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits to proceed as bellwether trials for the estimated 16,000 total of such cases currently pending before federal courts. The order comes just a few months after the same judge handed down an important ruling which allowed the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses to present evidence at trial showing that defendant Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products caused the victims’ cancers.

Per the judge’s order, the plaintiffs in the selected cases will have three months to order and produce medical records related to their cancer diagnoses. Further, the records produced must be served to the defendants within that same 90-day period.

The lawsuits accuse pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson of knowingly manufacturing and selling asbestos-contaminated talcum powder products to consumers without any warnings about the health effects of using the products. Such talcum powder products include Johnson & Johnson’s iconic Baby Powder and Shower to Shower. Until recently, Johnson & Johnson’s longtime talc supplier Imerys Talc USA was named to many of the lawsuits but the company has since filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

A New York court recently denied a bid by a defendant in an asbestos cancer lawsuit to have the case thrown out and instead sided with the plaintiff, ruling that the issue of credibility to the plaintiff’s testimony is a question that should be left to a jury. In denying defendant Baltimore Aircoil Company Inc.’s motion for summary judgement, the court ruled that the company had not met the legal standards to show that its products could not have caused the plaintiff’s injury.

According to the mesothelioma cancer lawsuit, filed in New York County Supreme Court, the plaintiff worked as an air conditioning mechanic as an upperclassman in high school and subsequently continued working full time after graduating. In his deposition testimony, the plaintiff stated that he frequently worked on cooling towers manufactured by Baltimore Aircoil Company, specifically at the Squibb Building, the World Trade Center, and at Rockefeller University.

In his testimony, the plaintiff described the characteristics of the cooling towers he asserts were produced by Baltimore Aircoil Company. Those features include the shape of the cooling towers, ventilation louvers, and brackets. The plaintiff further described the asbestos containing gaskets that he would replace as a regular and frequent part of his maintenance duties while working on the cooling towers manufactured by Baltimore Aircoil Company. The plaintiff testified that while cleaning and scraping off the old gaskets, the process created visible dust that he inhaled.

A national industrial manufacturer recently set aside two newly created units of its business in order to fund an asbestos bankruptcy trust and relieve itself from the hundreds of mesothelioma cancer lawsuits it faces each and every year. As part of the liability restructuring, Trane Technologies Plc formed two subsidiaries, Aldrich Pump LLC and Murray Boiler LLC, back in May 2020 in order to transfer assets and liability to the new business entities and enjoin all asbestos cancer-related lawsuits against Trane Technologies.

After creating Aldrich Pump LLC and Murray Boiler LLC, Trane Technologies subsequently transferred tens of millions of dollars in cash and assets and recently had these entities file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of North Carolina. The end game for the transfer of assets and liability is to ultimately establish an asbestos bankruptcy trust which plaintiffs with claims against Trane Technologies to file claims against.

According to Trane Technologies, the company resolves through trial or settlement an estimated 900 asbestos cancer lawsuits each year and spends nearly $100 million on litigation costs, which includes payouts for victims and the company’s out attorney’s fees. The strategy is a similar one enacted by other asbestos companies like Bestwall LLC and Kaiser Gypsum Company Inc. in order to shield the parent companies from asbestos cancer lawsuits brought by victims who claim they developed mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos in the defendant’s products.

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