Asbestos suits offer X-ray vision

By Steve Korris | Mar 5, 2009

JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - Just as X-rays allow patients to see through skin, X-ray lawsuits allow Americans to see through asbestos litigation that swallowed profits of American corporations and carried away their assets through bankruptcy courts.

Now that judges have started holding radiologists accountable for phony asbestos suits, lawyers who grew richer than the radiologists face accountability too.

National Services Industries, which sued two radiologists in state court at Lexington on Feb. 9, sued three more at U.S. District Court in Jackson three days later.

In the state complaint, Marcy Croft of Jackson reserved 20 John Doe docket spaces for law firm defendants, and in her federal suit she listed that many targets and more.

From a constellation of asbestos lawyers, she chose Michael Fitzgerald of Virginia as first target, naming him as a defendant in the federal suit.

The state suit alleges that N&M Inc. ran a racket that manufactured asbestos claims, and the federal suit alleges a racket at Respiratory Testing Services.

The federal suit claims NSI lost $80 million to the Respiratory Testing Services racket.

The state suit connects N&M to radiologists Ray Harron and son Andrew Harron.

The federal suit connects Respiratory Testing Services to radiologists Ray Segarra, James Ballard and Phillip Lucas.

The radiologists face an uphill struggle because walls of justice keep closing in on them from all sides.

In February at federal court at Wheeling, West Virginia, District Judge Frederick Stamp denied a motion to dismiss Ray Harron from a lawsuit over asbestos suits.

In that case CSX Transportation seeks damages from the Pittsburgh firm of Peirce, Raimond and Coulter, and from Ray Harron.

CSX moved on March 3 to compel Harron to produce records of his X-ray income.

"Such compensation would be admissible at trial to demonstrate Harron's motive to continue receiving income from the lawyer defendants and other law firms," wrote CSX counsel David Bolen, of Huddleston Bolen in Huntington.

Bolen wrote that juries can consider wealth when setting punitive damages.

The motion seeks W-2 income slips of Harron's employees.

Bolen wrote that employees could testify about Harron's misconduct.

The motion seeks invoices from Harron to Peirce.

"This information is relevant to CSX's claim that Harron was compensated on a per X-ray basis," Bolen wrote.

Magistrate James Seibert set a March 18 hearing on the motion.

Harron faces a parallel suit in Pittsburgh, where Lumbermens Mutual Casualty denies responsibility for Peirce's defense or potential judgment against him at Wheeling.

Lumbermens Mutual argues that its policy didn't cover racketeering.

Harron moved in January to dismiss the insurer's claim against him.

Lumbermens lawyer Louis Long of Pittsburgh answered in February that depending on the outcome at Wheeling, Harron could assert a claim against Lumbermens Mutual.

Pressure on Segarra increased on Feb. 24, when a federal judge responsible for about 90,000 asbestos suits stripped him of physician patient privilege.

District Judge Eduardo Robreno of Philadelphia ordered Segarra and radiologists Laxminaraya and Richard Bernstein to answer defense subpoenas.

"Doctor Segarra was not consulted by the plaintiffs in order to provide treatment," Robreno wrote.

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