Asbestos firm argues against amicus briefs

John O'Brien Feb. 1, 2010, 1:18pm

Robert Peirce

WHEELING, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - A Pittsburgh law firm accused of conspiring to fabricate an asbestos exposure claim says several groups shouldn't be permitted to file amicus briefs in the case.

Peirce, Raimond & Coulter wrote Thursday that three of the briefs serve as "a mere conduit" for CSX Transportation, which is appealing a lower court decision in favor of the firm. The remaining briefs are irrelevant, the firm adds.

Several organizations, including the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the American Tort Reform Foundation, are supporting the appeal of CSX.

"Given the parallels with CSX's brief, (three) briefs exceed what CSX could accomplish given its page limitations; the resulting 67 pages of these three briefs therefore, in substance, enable briefing in support of CSX's arguments that is roughly twice its allowable limit," the Peirce firm says.

"We submit that this is not an appropriate use of amicus briefs."

Former Bridgeport radiologist Ray Harron was accused of diagnosing lung disease in patients who did not have it. CSX says Peirce, Raimond & Coulter then hid those plaintiffs with thousands of others, preventing it from being able to adequately investigate each complaint.

In 2005, federal court judge Janis Graham Jack made national headlines when she uncovered duplicate and fraudulent silica diagnoses in her Texas courtroom. Many of those diagnoses were made by Harron and were made on plaintiffs who had already brought asbestos claims.

In Jack's opinion dismissing the claims, she said "These diagnoses were driven by neither health nor justice - they were manufactured for money."

Following Harron's admission that he did not even make the diagnoses of the patients whose x-rays he read, Jack noted that most of "these diagnoses are more the creation of lawyers than doctors."

Briefs submitted by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists, the Virginia Society of Radiologic Technologists and three doctors who also serve as asbestos expert witnesses "err in the opposite direction" of the other briefs, the firm says.

"(T)hey propose to educate this Court in 'the licensing requirements and professional standards applicable to qualified radiologic technologists' and to provide 'their broader perspective on the relevant industry standards," the firm says.

"These issues are simply beyond the scope of this appeal and would only burden the Court with additional papers to read."

U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp ruled for the Peirce firm, deciding that CSX missed the statute of limitations when filing its claim.

The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce argues that Stamp relied on "erroneous assumptions about the special procedures adopted for litigating asbestos personal injury claims" in the state when he dismissed CSX's claims as time-barred.

Stamp should have further explored when CSX could have had access to plaintiff-specific information, the Chamber says.

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