Thousands of people who sued the world’s biggest largest chemical maker over asbestos in talc products could be compensated following a $72.5 million federal court settlement, Bloomberg News reported.
BASF SE and a law firm agreed to a joint settlement in a federal court in New Jersey, Bloomberg reported. With legal fees, the settlement could total nearly $100 million, according to court filings.
The plaintiffs alleged Englehard, a unit of BASF, and its law firm, Cahill, Gordon & Reindel LLP, hid evidence that some of the company’s talc products contained asbestos, Bloomberg reported.
The settlement allows plaintiffs who dropped their suits or had them dismissed to re-instate them if possible, according to Bloomberg.
Engelhard owned a mine in Vermont that produced talc for industrial and consumer products including auto body filler, wallboard, and children’s balloons, the story said.
In 2009, a woman sued BASF in the state court of New Jersey. She was the daughter of an Engelhard scientist and claimed asbestos exposure from visiting him at work and washing his clothes, Bloomberg said.
Her father claimed in a deposition that Engelhard had known for years that its talc products contained asbestos.
According to court filings, that led to an investigation by attorneys of an alleged coverup by Engelhard and its lawyers, who had claimed in previous lawsuits that its talc contained no asbestos, Bloomberg said.
BASF and Cahill deny the allegations. Under the settlement, they do not admit wrongdoing.
A BASF spokeswoman told Bloomberg
“The talc at issue in the lawsuit was primarily used in industrial applications, such as auto body filler, and generally not used in any cosmetic or personal care products such as baby powder.”
According to a Cahill spokesman, the allegations against the law firm go back to the 1980s. “This matter relates to a representation that was undertaken more than 35 years ago, and we are pleased to have resolved it amicably,” the spokeswoman told the news agency.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said in court documents that Engelhard and Cahill's lawyers have finally acknowledged that “for nearly 30 years, they concealed from the courts and litigants” the presence of asbestos in their talc.
“This is admission is long overdue,” the lawyers said in a 2018 filing, Bloomberg reported.