Asbestos attorneys plotting another appeal of fraud ruling

By John O'Brien | Jun 12, 2012


NEW ORLEANS (Legal Newsline) - Asbestos attorneys found to have committed fraud appear to be preparing to ask for a full panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to hear their appeal.

William Guy and Thomas Brock filed an unopposed motion last week asking for an extension of time to file for a rehearing. The motion was granted on Thursday, and the two will have until June 26 to file.

A three-judge panel ruled on May 29 that the two unfairly hid two of their clients' previous involvement in an asbestos mass action, inducing Illinois Central Railroad to pay $210,000 in settlements.

The two lawyers argued a Mississippi federal court lacked jurisdiction over the case and that Illinois Central missed the statute of limitations.

The two clients - Willie Harried and Warren Turner - sued the company in 2001 despite their previous involvements in an asbestos mass action titled Cosey in the mid-1990s.

"Guy and Brock point out that even if Illinois Central should not have suspected them of fraud, it certainly had reason to suspect Harried and Turner," Judge Thomas Morrow Reavley wrote.

"We note that Illinois Central need not demonstrate due diligence with respect to its claims against Turner and Harried; its suits against them were timely... (W)e do not fault Illinois Central for assuming that it was Turner and Harried, rather than Guy and Brock, whom Illinois Central should sue for the settlement fraud."

Illinois Central paid $210,000 in settlements to the Harried and Turner. A federal jury awarded the company $420,000.

Harried filed suit in Mississippi state court, arguing the company knew its claims were time-barred and should not have pursued its case. Illinois Central said the suit attempts to relitigate the federal court case.

Judge Catharina Haynes joined Reavley in the majority. Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod dissented and filed an opinion.

"I would reverse because doing nothing is not due diligence," Elrod wrote. "The majority opinion applies the fraudulent concealment statute to excuse the tardiness of the claims but, in doing so, gives short shrift to Mississippi's due diligence requirement."

The company was given only a partial award of attorneys fees by U.S. District Judge David Bramlette. It lost money pursuing the fraud claim.

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

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