A law school summer internship with consumer advocate Ralph Nader led Fred Baron to become a champion of America’s working men and women. After graduating from the University of Texas Law School, Baron joined a Houston law firm which specialized in representing unions and union workers. One of his first clients was Karen Silkwood, an early whistleblower in the nuclear power industry. The remainder of his career was dedicated to protecting workers' rights in a myriad of industries.
Fred Baron (1947 - 2008)
After the Silkwood case, Baron took on the asbestos industry for a client named Herbert Yandle and other employees of a Texas insulation manufacturer in 1974, setting the standard for litigation against asbestos companies. Baron obtained a $20 million settlement for the plaintiffs – a sum nearly unheard of at the time.
In 1977, Baron and Russell Budd formed Baron & Budd, handling industrial and environmental tort cases against the asbestos, chemical, pharmaceutical, financial, and nuclear power industries. Baron became adept at representing workers with occupational illnesses through cases that uncovered the harm of exposure to asbestos, revealed the poisoning of groundwater by the chemical TCE, and demonstrated the damage done to a neighborhood that resulted from a lead smelter.
Fred Baron. 16" x 21". 2017. Collection of the artist. Montreal, Canada
[Baron and his wife] created the Baron and Blue Foundation to assist non-profits promoting the needs of the underserved .Fred Baron ultimately left Baron & Budd to form a firm with his wife, Attorney Lisa Blue. They practiced together until his death in 2008. The two also created the Baron and Blue Foundation to assist non-profits promoting the needs of the underserved.In 1994, Baron again took on the nuclear energy business on behalf of residents in two small towns in western Pennsylvania, where nuclear waste had contaminated the air and ground. He obtained a federal court jury award of $36.7 million for eight of the two hundred plaintiffs. Despite the trial judge throwing out the verdict and one of the defendants filing for bankruptcy, settlement negotiations continued, resulting in a 2008 settlement of $80 million from two defendants. Baron worked on the case up until two days before his death.
Associations and Honors
In 1982, Baron, Ralph Nader, and a number of other lawyers founded Trial Lawyers for Public Justice. Baron himself served as President for two years in the 1990s and also led the 60,000 member Association of Trial Lawyers of America (now the American Association for Justice).
In June of 2000, the Center for Public Interest Law at the University of Texas bestowed the “Outstanding Service Award” on Baron, and the Texas Lawyer magazine named him one of the legal legends of Texas. In 2001, The University of Texas created the Frederick M. Baron Chair in Law to be held by a senior professor engaged in original research on lawyering and the civil justice system.