Karl Asch, one of the pioneers of asbestos litigation in New Jersey, died yesterday at age 84. He filed the first New Jersey case on behalf of persons exposed to asbestos, and has also been credited with unearthing key documents, the “Sumner-Simpson” papers, that showed that the asbestos manufacturers both knew of the hazards posed by asbestos and tried to conceal those hazards from the public. Karl Asch was the first attorney to introduce the Sumner-Simpson documents into evidence at an asbestos trial. Historians of asbestos litigation rank him with other “founders” of plaintiffs’ asbestos litigation, such as Ron Motley, who died several months ago.
Karl Asch also served as Union County’s first full-time prosecutor. He held that position from 1970 through 1975.
As an appellate practitioner, Karl Asch argued two landmark cases in the asbestos area: Theer v. Philip Carey Co., 133 N.J. 630 (1993), and Fischer v. Johns-Manville Corp., 103 N.J. 643 (1986), as well as a personal injury case, Green v. Sterling Extruder Corp., 95 N.J. 263 (1984). He was appeared several times as an amicus curiae in his own right, such as in Coons v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., 96 N.J. 419 (1984) which he argued pro se, and Beshada v. Johns-Manville Corp., 90 N.J. 191 (1982).