Four states mulling intervention in whistleblower suit

John O'Brien Apr. 13, 2010, 2:00pm


LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) - A federal judge has given four states a deadline to decide if they want to join a whisteblower lawsuit filed against pipemaker JM Eagle.

U.S. District Judge George Wu gave New Mexico, Illinois, Indiana and New York until Oct. 29 to make a decision regarding intervention in the case, which alleges JM Eagle provided substandard piping.

The attorneys general of Delaware, Nevada, Virginia and Tennessee have all elected to join the lawsuit, though AGs from California and Florida declined. The federal government also elected not to intervene.

The law firm Phillips & Cohen is representing whistleblower John Hendrix, who was an engineer for J-M Manufacturing's product assurance division in New Jersey. J-M was JM Eagle's corporate predeccessor.

Hendrix was fired less than two weeks after writing a memo that said the pipes tensile strength was substandard, Phillips & Cohen said.

Forty-three other municipalities and water districts have joined the case, too.

"For safety, economic and health reasons, water and sewer lines need to be reliable and sustainable to meet the needs of Nevada's citizens," Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said.

Davis, though, said none of the states put much time into investigating the claims. Masto was the only attorney general with whom the company interacted.

Jason Miller, a spokesman for Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, has said the state has experienced "no known failures of the pipe."

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles subpoenaed tens of thousands of documents and conducted what attorney Lanny Davis called a "mini-trial" in which expert testimony was given.

"I'd never seen that before," said Davis, former special counsel to President Bill Clinton. "At the very end of the process, they sent in people to take samples of the pipes, going over several years. They told us they were going to test the pipe, then we didn't hear from them anymore."

Filed in 2006, the case was unsealed earlier this year.

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