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Williams v. BASF Catalysts LLC

765 F.3d 306 (2014)

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Williams v. BASF Catalysts LLC

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

765 F.3d 306 (2014)

Facts

The law firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindell LLP (Cahill) (defendant) represented BASF Catalysts (BASF) and Engelhard, companies that produced talc, in lawsuits related to asbestos. From 1967 to 1983, Engelhard operated a talc mine. In the 1970s, Engelhard discovered that its talc contained asbestos, a harmful silicate mineral. In 1979 Engelhard settled a lawsuit related to the asbestos in its talc and hid much of the evidence related to the lawsuit. Later, Engelhard instructed its employees to discard documents related to the asbestos in its talc and, with the help of Cahill, created false evidence suggesting that its talc did not contain asbestos. Kimberlee Williams filed a lawsuit in state court alleging that her husband, Charles, developed lung cancer after being exposed to Engelhard’s asbestos-laced talc. Engelhard, Cahill, and BASF, the latter of which succeeded Engelhard, presented the falsified evidence to Williams showing that the talc did not contain asbestos, and Williams voluntarily dismissed her case. Later litigation in front of the New Jersey Superior Court revealed that Engelhard, BASF, and Cahill had lied about their knowledge of the asbestos. Williams and other plaintiffs who had previously filed lawsuits against Engelhard and BASF (collectively, the asbestos plaintiffs) (plaintiffs) filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court against BASF and Cahill for fraud and fraudulent concealment stemming from their actions related to the asbestos. The district court dismissed the case, holding that the evidence of the falsified evidence that came out in prior litigation was protected by New Jersey’s litigation privilege. New Jersey’s litigation privilege protected communications and documents made during the course of litigation. The asbestos plaintiffs appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Fuentes, J.)

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