September 27, 2021
A recent Law 360 story by Mike Curley, “BASF, Cahill Gordon To Pay $22.5M Atty Fees in Asbestos Suit,” reports that a New Jersey federal judge granted final approval to a $100 million settlement to resolve claims that BASF Catalysts LLC's predecessor and its former counsel at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP concealed that industrial and commercial talc from a Vermont mine may contain asbestos. As part of the deal, class counsel will receive $22.5 million in attorney fees, as well as $1.2 million for costs and expenses incurred during the case and for the administration of the settlement, according to the order. The six named plaintiffs, led by Kimberlee Williams, will each receive a $50,000 incentive award.
Christopher M. Placitella of Cohen Placitella & Roth PC, representing the plaintiffs, told Law360 that the total settlement comes to $100 million between the attorney fees and costs, incentive awards, $3.5 million for administering notice to the class, and the $72.5 million fund to be paid to the class. He added that class members will be able to seek between $3,500 and $300,000 from the fund. U.S. District Judge Brian R. Martinotti also certified a settlement class consisting of anyone who brought an asbestos suit against Englehard Corp. between 1984 and 2011 over the talc products in question, and who had either voluntarily dismissed or settled the suit or had it involuntarily dismissed before March 2011.
According to the lawsuit, Englehard, which was acquired by BASF in 2006, retained Cahill Gordon to defend it against claims that the Emtal Talc it produced between 1967 and 1983 contained asbestos. The plaintiffs said Cahill Gordon and Englehard falsely said there was no evidence or testimony that the products contained asbestos, and had used those assertions to dismiss or settle thousands of claims.
Judge Martinotti said that the deal was entered into in good faith following substantial discovery and is a fair, reasonable and adequate method of resolving the claims at issue in the suit. Williams and the other named plaintiffs asked the court for preliminary approval of the deal in July 2020, and the court granted preliminary approval in September of that year, according to court documents.