In the fall of 1997 Fred Baron found himself in a most unwelcome spotlight. A Baron & Budd lawyer had mistakenly given defense counsel a 20-page document: “Preparing for Your Deposition,” which contained controversial tips for plaintiffs. “You will be asked if you ever saw any WARNING labels on containers of asbestos,” it says. “It is important to maintain that you NEVER saw any labels on asbestos products that said WARNING or DANGER.” Nor should plaintiffs admit that they knew asbestos was dangerous. “Most people first discovered they were harmed by asbestos,” the document notes, “when their doctor told them it WAS IN THEIR LUNGS and NEVER before that.”

Three asbestos defendants- Borg Warner Corporation, W R Grace and Co., and Raymark Industries, Inc.-decided to raise the issue of the memo in courts where they faced Baron & Budd, arguing that it showed improper witness coaching and the creation of illegitimate claims. (Other defendants, contends Borg Warner counsel Elizabeth Phifer, “were afraid of Baron & Budd.”)

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