States, D.C. given more time to mull pipemaker suit

John O'Brien Nov. 9, 2010, 3:19pm

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) - Three states and the District of Columbia will have more time to decide if they want to intervene in a whistleblower case against pipemaker JM Eagle.

U.S. District Judge granted their requests on Nov. 1 and allowed them until March 4 to make up their minds. He had previously given the states of Illinois, New York and New Mexico and D.C. until Oct. 29 to do so.

In a 2006 complaint filed under seal, 11 states were named as parties of interest. Only three are currently intervenors, and California and the federal government are among the notables that have decided not to intervene.

The state of Delaware was once an intervenor -- along with Nevada, Virginia and Tennessee -- but state Attorney General Beau Biden dropped out of the case last month.

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.

JM Eagle attorney Lanny Davis has said that none of the states put much time into investigating the claims. Nevada Attorney General Caroline Cortez Masto was the only attorney general with whom the company interacted.

Jason Miller, a spokesman for 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 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."

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