DALLAS – The Wikipedia page for the “Terrell memo,” the infamous cheat sheet revealing how Baron & Budd asbestos clients were coached up before depositions, is no longer up.
Since its discovery two decades ago, the Terrell memo has remained in controversy and continues to be a focal point in major asbestos litigation.
The memo was first unearthed in the fall of 1997 when a Baron & Budd associate accidentally produced a document entitled "Preparing for Your Deposition," which appeared to coach the firm’s clients on how to identify asbestos products and exposures that they might not actually remember and might never have been exposed to in the first place.
The memo, which Baron & Budd asserted had been written by a paralegal named Lynell Terrell, was widely distributed by defense counsel, who began to conduct discovery into whether and how the memo had been used in hundreds of the firm’s asbestos cases.
More recently, a year ago Christine Biederman, a Dallas lawyer and freelance journalist working on behalf of a documentary filmmaker, intervened in a 24-year old asbestos suit filed in Travis County, seeking to unearth the deposition of Russell Budd, the current president of Baron & Budd, believing his testimony may be related to the Terrell memo.
Biederman and her client, Paul Johnson Films, suspect the testimony has relevancy to ongoing asbestos litigation and sought to use it in Johnson’s documentary “UnSettled,” a film seeking to cast light on the business of asbestos lawsuits.
However, Baron & Budd fought the motion to unseal and were successful in keeping the deposition from prying eyes.
The issue is currently up on appeal. First Amendment attorney Paul Watler is representing the filmmaker.
Biederman and her client also suspected Budd’s deposition could even be relevant to the 2014 Garlock Sealing Technologies bankruptcy case that exposed attorney “double-dipping” in bankruptcy asbestos trusts.
In January 2014, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge George Hodges ruled in a landmark decision that plaintiffs attorneys had been withholding evidence that could have been submitted to bankruptcy trusts that were established by companies frequently hit with asbestos claims. Claimants withheld that evidence from the bankruptcy system while pursuing lawsuits against solvent companies.
The Record examined the Terrell memo Wiki page a year ago while researching for the article on the attempt to unseal Budd’s deposition.
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