Holder urged to investigate fraud in asbestos litigation

Chris Rizo Apr. 30, 2009, 1:00pm

Eric Holder

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-The U.S. Justice Department should investigate evidence suggesting there is widespread fraud by trial lawyers litigating asbestos-related cases, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says.

The chamber's chief executive, Thomas Donohue, in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder this week called on federal officials to put a stop to the frauds.

"Wrongdoers continue to escape prosecution and are not being held accountable for conduct that has inflicted unwarranted economic damage to companies and their employees, undermined the integrity of our civil justice system and deprived the truly sick of compensation for their injuries," Donohue said.

He questioned why federal officials have not taken action against crimes, including conspiracies to bilk insurance companies out of settlement funds.

In a West Virginia case this year, for instance, asbestos plaintiffs' lawyers encouraged their client to forge asbestos diagnoses by providing a cash advance and preprinted diagnosis forms.

In 2007, a Cuyahoga (Ohio) County judge barred a leading asbestos plaintiffs' firm from his court, stating the firm's attorneys told "lies upon lies upon lies" in an asbestos case before him, the chamber said in a statement.

"It is unfathomable to the business community that federal prosecutors could ignore this conduct, especially when it is revealed repeatedly and openly around the country."

Legal Newsline is owned by an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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