Arguments scheduled in attorneys' appeal of fraud ruling

John O'Brien Jan. 17, 2012, 9:56am

HOUSTON (Legal Newsline) - Asbestos attorneys found to have committed fraud against a railroad company will argue their case to a federal appeals court on March 6.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decided on that date on Monday. In its lawsuit, Illinois Central Railroad Company alleged plaintiffs attorneys William Guy and Thomas Brock, both of Mississippi, did not disclose its clients' previous involvements in another asbestos lawsuit.

Oral arguments will be heard in the morning session that the Fifth Circuit is holding at the University of Houston Law Center. It is believed to be the first time a jury found that asbestos plaintiffs lawyers committed fraud.

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 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. They add 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.

Also at issue is the award of $500,000 in attorneys fees to Illinois Central. The company had asked for close to $1 million, but a judge ruled that was excessive. The company has lost money while pursuing the case.

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