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July 30, 2004

Our editor on the Democratic Convention -- and Fred Baron spouts off

In yesterday's New York Times, our editor had the following to say on the Democratic National Convention: "[T]he party spent $2.4 million on liability insurance for its four-day convention of about 5,000 delegates.... That works out to about $120 per day per delegate spent just on insuring against being sued -- and imagine if they were doing something physically riskier than just waving placards around.... So maybe Edwards's acceptance speech should include the line: I'm worth it."

Even more startling than the liability insurance rates Walter uncovered were the mind-boggling comments of Fred Baron, the Texas asbestos lawyer who is the former head of the American Trial Lawyers Association and co-chairman of Kerry-Edwards Victory '04: "The pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry and the chemical industry have spent over $200 million over the last five years in ad campaigns that make trial lawyers look like villains.... I could spend $200 million and make most people believe that dog food tastes good."

Is that true? Mr. Baron, can you back that up? The businesses he lists certainly spend a lot on advertising, but $200 million to "make trial lawyers look like villains"?

No one I've spoken to can point to a single advertisement by these industries vilifying trial lawyers. If Mr. Baron can back up his assertion, fine. Until then, I'll be skeptical, especially given Baron's history with truthfulness. As our editor noted in The Wall Street Journal earlier this month, Mr. Baron's firm, Baron & Budd, infamously produced a "memorandum" for its asbestos clients to "prepare" them for depositions, which told them, among other things:

"It is important to maintain that you NEVER saw any labels on asbestos products that said WARNING or DANGER" (presumably, even if, in fact, they had); and

"Do NOT say you saw more of one brand than another, or that one brand was more commonly used than another. . . . You NEVER want to give specific quantities or percentages of any product names. . . . Be CONFIDENT that you saw just as much of one brand as all the others." (presumably, even if, in fact, they had seen more of one brand than another)

Until I see evidence to the contrary -- and I'm not holding my breath -- forgive me if I don't take Mr. Baron at his word.

Posted by James R. Copland at 02:29 PM | TrackBack (2)

Attorneys' Fees and Ethics



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