Briefs accepted in asbestos lawsuit fraud appeal

John O'Brien Feb. 10, 2010, 3:13pm

Robert Peirce

WHEELING, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - Despite an asbestos firm's wishes, a federal appellate court will allow several groups to file amicus briefs in a lawsuit against it.

Peirce, Raimond & Coulter of Pittsburgh is accused by CSX Transportation of conspiring to fabricate an asbestos exposure claim. Several organizations, including the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the American Tort Reform Foundation, are supporting the appeal of CSX.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decided Tuesday to accept five amicus briefs.

The Peirce firm said three of the briefs served as a "conduit" for CSX to introduce more arguments than allowed by page limits, and the other two were irrelevant.

Former Bridgeport, W.Va., 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."

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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