Fred Baron (lawyer) : biography
Frederick Martin Baron (June 20, 1947 – October 30, 2008) 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.
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. 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."Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial", Paul Brodeur, 1985, Pantheon Books, NY 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.Samuel Issacharoff, ‘‘Shocked’’: Mass Torts and Aggregate Asbestos Litigation After Amchem and Ortiz, 80 Tex. L. Rev. 1925, 1930 (2002).
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. 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.
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.
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,, Austin American-Statesman, 12 Nov. 2006 and renting Edwards his Hawker 800 private jet. In total, the Edwards campaign paid Baron nearly 1.1 million dollars for this service.
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.’"John Fund, , Wall Street Journal, 6 Nov. 2002