More Problems with BASF’s Acquisition of Long-Time Asbestos Producer

By now there have been a lot of news articles about German-based multinational chemical giant BASF unknowingly inheriting significant liability for the pain, suffering, and ultimately death of what seems like countless asbestos exposure mesothelioma victims. This company assumed this risk when it acquired Engelhard Corporation nearly 10 years ago for a purchase price of $10 billion.

shotEngelhard operated mines in which they removed talc from the ground to process for industrial and consumer use. While talcum powder does not necessarily have to contain asbestos, it is often found with asbestos and asbestos-laden vermiculite. The reason there is such a problem with liability in this company’s history is because of a mesothelioma lawsuit in filed against the company in the early 1980s according to a recent news article from the Insurance Journal.

As our Boston malignant pleural mesothelioma injury attorneys can explain, Engelhard settled a case in 1983. The settlement was done privately and quietly, and the general public was not made aware of the fact that, in depositions, company officials allegedly admitted the talc they mined contained deadly asbestos fibers. The real problem was, instead of stopping mining of the contaminated talc, the company continued doing it and, when sued, would testify that their talc was completely asbestos-free.

The reason BASF claims it did not have knowledge of the issue, and the reason everyone now does, is because a woman who developed mesothelioma sued the company and called a former company chemist as a witness. The former chemist was her father, and he testified the company made him aware of asbestos in the talc and told him to destroy any lab tests or other records showing the existence of asbestos.

As a result of this information, hundreds, if not thousands, of lawsuits across the country may able to be re-filed. This would expose BASF to millions if not billions of dollars in mesothelioma injury liability, and this is causing the chemical giant major concern.   While it is possible BASF did know about Engelhard’s asbestos secret, is it not likely, because why would any company want to take on this massive amount of liability.

It should be noted that, while most people associate talc with baby power for personal grooming use, there are many other uses that account for much more demand in the industry. Talc has been heavily used in paper making, plastic making, paint manufacturing, production of cosmetics, rubber goods, and even pharmaceuticals. Like asbestos, talc is also resistant to electricity, heat, and acids, so it is used to manufacture circuit boards for computers and home appliances.

Talc also has chemical properties that make it an excellent lubricant for industrial machinery. It can be used in powder form, similar to the way graphite is used, or it can be added to lubricating oils to enhance their lubricity. While there are some concerns about the safety of talc in terms of it causing respiratory illness when inhaled, and there are some theories that it is linked to ovarian cancer, it is often the asbestos found in the talc products that is doing the real harm and what is being proven to be fatal.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.

Additional resources:

BASF Case Shows How Liabilities May Emerge Long After Acquisition, September 8, 2015, Insurance Journal

More Blog Entries:

Can Family of Asbestos Workers Sue for Illness?, September 15, 2014, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog

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