We went all the way to the United States Supreme Court to protect the rights of all asbestos patients, not just our clients.
With the seemingly endless cascade of television commercials and apparently endless, it can be hard to believe that, once, mesothelioma lawsuits by a national class action settlement that would have stopped any future lawsuits from being filed, but in the late 1990s they were. And Baron and Budd was one of the firms that proudly stood up against this course of action.
In this case, Baron & Budd teamed up with a group of committed asbestos advocates and subject experts to fight back against these seemingly unethical class action settlements, and ultimately convinced the United States Supreme Court that it was unconstitutional to limit the rights of individual asbestos victims to seek compensation for the specific harm that they suffered. This means that, under the proposed class action settlement, future mesothelioma patients would not be able to have their specific case, with their specific situation, heard individually, instead, their case would have been essentially predetermined by a court that knew nothing about the specific person.
The class action lawsuit was proposed because the asbestos industry wanted to limit the total amount of money they would have to pay to the people they had knowingly harmed. In order to keep this amount as low as possible, the industry worked to create a class action “settlement” that would closely control the amount of money paid to all present and future asbestos patients and their families. In other words, the asbestos companies wanted to use this settlement to decide how much they would owe to patients who had not yet been diagnosed with any disease—those who likely didn’t even know they had a stake in the case at the time. Such a settlement would help shield the asbestos industry from future lawsuits and, in a sense, lower their liability for asbestos cancers.
Ultimately, our firm, along with other advocates, fought this proposed class action settlement and won. Through our work, we helped to convince the Supreme Court that such a settlement was unconstitutional.
In two separate but related lawsuits,Ortiz v. Fibreboard Corp. and Amchem Products v. Windsor, the U.S. Supreme Court held the proposed settlements were improper and illegal because they violated due process rights under the United States Constitution. In the Amchem case in particular Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote: “Lumping these diverse groups into a single mass class is inappropriate.” Because of this foresight, mesothelioma patients are still able to file individual lawsuits today.
Our firm is proud that our work in these cases helped prevent powerful industry interests from manipulating the legal system, especially when it comes to settlements in class actions, to limit the rights of the people they harm. We are proud to continue this same mission of protecting the rights of asbestos patients today.