Railroad makes argument against asbestos lawyers' appeal

John O'Brien Aug. 23, 2011, 10:45am

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

NEW ORLEANS (Legal Newsline) - Illinois Central Railroad says the appeal of two Mississippi asbestos attorneys found to have committed fraud is not supported by any facts or laws.

Three months after William Guy and Thomas Brock filed their appeal brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Illinois Central filed a response that argues the attorneys' jurisdictional challenge has no merit.

"It is undisputed that the District Court had original diversity jurisdiction over Illinois Central Railroad Company's fraud claims against William Guy and Thomas Brock," says the brief, filed Aug. 12. "After the jury found that Guy and Brock had defrauded IC, Guy and Brock raised for the first time a hodgepodge of arguments which they have characterized as jurisdictional challenges (likely due to their late appearance)."

Guy and Brock say the district court had no jurisdiction over the case and that the company did not file the fraud lawsuit against them until the statute of limitations had tolled.

Illinois Central's complaints alleged the company would not have been obligated to pay $210,000 in settlements had it known that Willie Harried joined a mass action, titled Cosey, in 1995 and Warren Turner in 1996.

Harried and Turner both filed suit against Illinois Central in 2001. The complaints say Guy and Brock knew their clients had taken part in the mass action and failed to disclose it. A federal jury agreed and awarded the company $420,000.

Guy and Brock say Illinois Central filed its fraud lawsuit in federal court only because of adverse rulings from the Mississippi Supreme Court in related cases. They also says the company disclosed that it knew about the alleged harm by Feb. 13, 2004, while investigating possible fraud in another mass action, yet did not inform them.

The lawsuit was filed Jan. 31, 2007, against Turner, and the attorneys were added as defendants later that year.

"Not once - in the four years this action was pending, in the hundreds of pages of briefing filed by the parties (including two summary judgment motions filed by Guy and Brock), in the pre-trial order, or in the six-day trial held in this matter - did guy and rock ever question the District Court's subject-matter jurisdiction," the company's brief says.

"Instead, only after a jury found them guilty of fraud did Guy and Brock first claim that IC's claims were not properly before the District Court."

Also at issue is the award of $500,000 in attorneys fees to Illinois Central.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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