Archive for December, 2014

Corporate Fraud Litigation: Corporations & Their Attorneys Behaving Badly

By admin

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Recently the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the New Jersey District Court’s decision relating to a fraud case against defendants BASF and the New York law firm that defended them for years in asbestos cases, Cahill, Gordon & Reindel.

The plaintiffs, who were petitioners in asbestos workers ’ compensation claims, asserted that BASF and their law firm had collected and destroyed or hid evidence of asbestos-contaminated products in order to evade liability and forge minimal and in some cases no settlements.  The alleged deception had gone on for over two decades and conspired to prevent thousands of asbestos-injury victims from obtaining fair recoveries.

“This action is not itself an asbestos injury case, but rather an action about BASF and Cahill’s conduct when they confronted asbestos injury cases in State Courts around the country,” the Appeals Court wrote.

While this reads like a John Grisham novel the unfortunate truth is that often corporations that are defendants, and their attorneys, sometimes employ the same defensive tactics of trying to hide the truth.  Whether the company manufactures plastics or is a privately owned nursing home the fact remains the same – fraud and concealment occur, sometimes pushing the legal limits.   While the discovery process requires both sides to be forthcoming with information, how would a plaintiff know what they don’t have if they don’t know it exists?  Sometimes concealment comes in the form of denying a request because perhaps the right lingo isn’t used and sometimes, like in Cahill, it crosses the line by denying an incriminating incident report even exists or hiding the name of an employee who has knowledge about it.

The District Court Judge dismissed this case initially due in part to the litigation privilege which is a certain type of immunity given to lawyers to protect them from lawsuits based on their statements in judicial proceedings.   However, the Third Circuit found that the litigation privilege has limits, in part, which do not permit corporate defendants to subvert the legal process through a pattern of conduct which includes misrepresentation not only to plaintiff’s lawyers but tribunals as well. In the words of Judge Julio Fuentes, “The privilege has never applied to so shield systematic fraud directed at the integrity of the judicial process.  Nor should it.”

If you believe you or a loved one has been injured at work, by a defective product, or through medical malpractice at a nursing home, please contact our office.