Fred Baron (lawyer)

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Fred Baron
200 px
Fred Baron in 2008
Born Frederick Martin Baron
June 20, 1947
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Died October 30, 2008(2008-10-30) (aged 61)
Dallas, Texas, USA
Nationality American
Occupation Lawyer

Frederick Martin "Fred" Baron (June 20, 1947 – October 30, 2008[1]) was a trial lawyer best known for representing plaintiffs claiming toxic and chemical exposure. He was also an active figure in politics as a fund-raiser for the Democratic Party.

Biography

Legal career

Baron was one of the founders of Baron & Budd, P.C., a Dallas, Texas law firm and a former president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.[2] Fred Baron sold his interest in Baron & Budd and retired from the firm in December 2002. His former firm has become one of the largest firms in the country representing victims of toxic and chemical exposure particularly claims of asbestos exposure. As a young lawyer in 1975, Baron became a pioneer in the application of strict liability causes of action in asbestos litigation using the then-recently adopted Restatement Second of Torts Section 402a. He represented workers and widows of deceased workers at Pittsburg Corning's Tyler, Texas plant.[3] Fred Baron inspired a generation of lawyers to continue to represent asbestos workers and persons with asbestos exposure, which continues to be cited by lawyers for plaintiffs as the leading causes of occupational injury in the United States.

One academic estimated that Baron & Budd, along with Ness Motley, was one of two firms responsible for half of the hundreds of thousands of asbestos litigation claimants in the country.[4]

Baron convinced the United States Supreme Court to de-certify nationwide asbestos class action settlements involving future claims of people who are not yet ill, but who may later develop asbestos-related illnesses.[5] The decertification addressed the problem that asbestos-related illnesses like pleural mesothelioma (a fatal cancer of the lining of the lung) or peritoneal mesothelioma (a similar cancer of the lining of the abdomen), have a latency period of 20–40 years from the date of exposure.[5]

In 1985, Baron reached a $20 million (some argue $45 million after payments with interest are included over a 30-year period) agreement with RSR Corporation for one of the largest community lead contamination cases ever. In the mainly impoverished and minority community of West Dallas, he represented 370 children and some 40 property owners. Most clients resided in the West Dallas public housing complex that was located directly in the path of the prevailing southerly winds that had blown lead particles released in the air by RSR Corp. into the lives of the children in the neighborhood. The case did not however make it all the way through the court systems. The actual agreement came in an out-of-court settlement with Baron and RSR Corp. The children benefiting from Barons work receive interest included periodical payments over a 30-year period.[6]

Political career

Baron was an active figure in politics as a prominent fund-raiser for the Democratic Party and fellow trial lawyer, Sen. John Edwards. Baron was the finance chair of Edwards's 2004 presidential campaign before co-chairing the Kerry Victory '04 committee, a joint effort of the Democratic National Committee and the Presidential campaign of John Kerry. Baron gave $1.7 million to the Texas Democratic Trust in the last two years and is also heavily involved in Edwards's 2008 presidential campaign, moving to North Carolina to head up fundraising,[7] and renting Edwards his Hawker 800 private jet.[8] In total, the Edwards campaign paid Baron nearly 1.1 million dollars for this service.[9]

Baron joked about the prominence he and other trial lawyers have in the Democratic Party. In a July 2002 speech, he noted a Wall Street Journal editorial that said that "the plaintiffs bar is all but running the Senate." Baron pointed to the editorial and said, "Now I really, strongly disagree with that. Particularly the 'all but.'"[10]

Baron indicated on August 8, 2008, two months before his death at age 61, that he had given monetary assistance to the woman John Edwards had an affair with, Rielle Hunter. He claims he paid her directly, not using campaign money.[1]

Asbestos litigation tactics

Baron & Budd have been criticized by attorneys for both plaintiffs and defendants for their role in asbestos litigation in aggressively seeking payment for plaintiffs who have suffered no injury; as a result, many defendants have been bankrupted and seriously injured plaintiffs have been unable to recover.[11]

The Baron & Budd asbestos memo is alleged to have been a subornation of perjury and a cover-up.[12] It is cited by United States civil justice reformers[13] and politicians[14] as an example of ethical problems in the plaintiffs' bar and asbestos litigation. Baron and some academics argue that the memo was the act of a single paralegal, and that it was within the bounds of "zealous representation."[15] However, the Dallas Observer conducted an investigation of the memo, and found that "a number of former Baron & Budd employees say that the information and techniques contained in the memo are widely used, even taught to employees" and that the "memo was not truly an aberration, but a written example of how the product-identification staff works at Baron & Budd."[16][17][18]

In 2002, Baron left Baron & Budd along with his wife, Lisa Blue. Baron sued his former firm for breach of contract; Baron & Budd counterclaimed alleging that Baron and Blue breached contractual, fiduciary and legal obligations to the firm by failing to receive prior consent from Baron & Budd for plans to form a new firm.[19]

Baron lived in the Preston Hollow neighborhood of north Dallas.

Awards and honors

References

  1. Article about death
  2. Association of Trial Lawyers of America
  3. "Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial", Paul Brodeur, 1985, Pantheon Books, NY
  4. Samuel Issacharoff, ‘‘Shocked’’: Mass Torts and Aggregate Asbestos Litigation After Amchem and Ortiz, 80 Tex. L. Rev. 1925, 1930 (2002).
  5. 5.0 5.1 Amchem Products, Inc. et al., v. George Windsor et al.
  6. "Attorneys". Private Firm. Retrieved 2010-04-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Democratic effort helped by lawyer's $1.7 million, Austin American-Statesman, 12 Nov. 2006
  8. "2008 Candidates Rely on Private Jets to Get Around". Fox News/Associated Press. 2007-04-27. Retrieved 2008-06-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "John Edwards Expenditure Data". Retrieved 2008-08-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. John Fund, "Have You Registered to Sue?", Wall Street Journal, 6 Nov. 2002
  11. Thomas Korosec, "Enough to Make You Sick", Dallas Observer, 26 Sep 2002
  12. Lester Brickman, "On the Theory Class’s Theories of Asbestos Litigation: The Disconnect Between Scholarship and Reality", 31 Pepperdine L. Rev. 33 (2004).
  13. Walter Olson, "Thanks for the Memories", Reason (June 1998)
  14. Additional View of Senator Kyl, Senate Report No. 108-118 at pp. 81-184 (21 Jul. 2003) (reprinting memo in full).
  15. W. William Hodes, The Professional Duty To Horseshed Witnesses—Zealously, Within The Bounds Of the Law, 30 TEX. TECH L. REV. 1343 (1999). See also Charles Silver, Preliminary Thoughts on the Economics of Witness Preparation, 30 TEX. TECH L. REV. 1383, 1398-1401 (1999)(discussing forces affecting the preparation of witnesses in civil cases, including mass tort lawsuits).
  16. Julie Lyons, Patrick Williams, Thomas Korosec, and Christine Biederman, "Toxic Justice", 13 Aug. 1998
  17. Thomas Korosec, "Homefryin' with Fred Baron", Dallas Observer, 29 March 2001
  18. Julie Lyons, The Control Freak, Dallas Observer, 13 Aug. 1998.
  19. Brenda Sapino Jeffreys, Baron & Budd Alleges Ex-Shareholders Breached Duties by Planning Vioxx Venture With Lanier, Texas Lawyer, 11 Dec 2006
  20. Texas Lawyer commemorative publication, June 2000
  21. Mary Ann Thomas and Ramesh Santanam 2002. "Lawsuit against ARCO, BWXT rolls on". Valley News Dispatch.
  22. "Chair established to honor Frederick M. Baron, '71" (2001)

External links