BALTIMORE (Legal Newsline) - On the heels of a Wall Street Journal editorial questioning the motives behind prominent plaintiffs attorney Peter Angelos' attempt to revive 13,000 asbestos claims, the Maryland Attorney General's office said it would not comment on the matter yet.
Late Tuesday, a Journal editorial said Baltimore City Circuit Court is facing the decision to consolidate the 13,000 claims into a single mass tort.
"Such cases involve too many plaintiffs, products, workplaces and diseases to make justice possible," the editorial states. Instead, courts create inactive dockets for unimpaired plaintiffs who can, if they develop a disease, petition to move the claim to court.
"Mr. Angelos wants to upend this system and consolidate his claims into one giant payday," the editorial states. "Judge John M. Glynn hasn't ruled on the motion, but the request has provided an unexpected opportunity for disclosure."
On Wednesday, a spokesman for Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler said the office would not be making a statement regarding Angelos' court move.
"There won't be a statement on this," David Paulson said, adding that the office would not confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation into the matter.
In its editorial, the Journal compared the situation to Federal Judge Janis Graham Jack, who in 2005 "blew the lid off the silicosis scam and shut down that fraudulent tort industry" when she ordered discovery into 10,000 claims in her court. She found that 9,000 had been "diagnosed by the same nine doctors through law firms that had filed the suits.
"One doctor performed 1,239 diagnostic evaluations in 72 hours -- less than four minutes apiece," the Journal noted, adding that no such discovery ever has occurred in asbestos litigation. It went on to explain the 40 or so asbestos trusts set up by bankrupt asbestos companies that have data that, if compiled, "would likely show the same sort of doctor-lawyer collusion exposed in silicosis."
Angelos has been filing asbestos claims since the 1980s, the Journal said. Time has allowed companies to compare information about Angelos' claimants with information from Johns Manville, one of the largest asbestos trusts that made information available until a few years ago.
"The first discovery was that more than 1,500 claimants were duplicates," the Journal editorial noted. "Of the remaining 11,383 plaintiffs, nearly 70 percent had been diagnosed by one or more of the same five doctors.
"One of the physicians, William Goldiner, diagnosed nearly 50 percent of the plaintiffs, 77 in one day."
Goldiner is the team doctor for the Baltimore Orioles. The team is owned by Angelos.
"The asbestos litigation scam has dragged on because it has been allowed to operate in the shadows," the Journal editorial stated. "The Baltimore court and Congress have a rare chance to shine a light."
The Journal said Glynn has to follow Jack's path and "dig into the claims and see how many are bogus suits manufactured with the help of friendly doctors. As silicosis proved, such discovery is the best way for the judiciary to stop the avalanche of fraudulent claims so legitimate victims can get their day in court."
It also said the U.S. House of Representatives needs to make a bill requiring asbestos trust to make detailed claims data public a top priority.
"This would help defense attorneys connect dots and expose fraud," the Journal said. "The silicosis blowup cost doctors their licenses and earned fines for screening companies and law firms.
"Democrats who oppose the legislation should have to explain why they put their trial-bar friends ahead of transparency and judicial fairness."