John O'Brien Dec. 20, 2012, 9:18pm
WHEELING – A jury has found two members of a former Pittsburgh law firm engaged in racketeering when they conspired with a Bridgeport radiologist to fabricate asbestos claims.
The verdict, reached Dec. 20, comes more than seven years after CSX Transportation filed its lawsuit against the former firm Peirce, Raimond & Coulter. CSX alleged that many plaintiffs with fraudulent asbestos claims were diagnosed by Ray Harron, who was found by a Texas federal judge in 2005 to have created fraudulent silica claims and lost his license in 2007.
A jury found for CSX on its claims of racketeering, conspiracy and fraud against Robert Peirce, Louis Raimond and Ray Harron.
“We offer heartfelt thanks to the jury for its commitment to ensuring the integrity of our system of justice,” said Marc Williams, an attorney with the Huntington firm Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough who represented CSX.
CSX was also represented by the firm McGuire Woods, which has an office in Richmond, Va. Should the defendants appeal the decision, it will be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond.
CSX’s original complaint said Robert Peirce’s firm hid nine fraudulent claims among other lawsuits filed by the law firm in West Virginia.
The nine lawsuits were filed and settled from 2000-2006. U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp granted summary judgment to the Peirce firm in 2009, ruling a four-year statute of limitations began when the Peirce firm began targeting CSX.
However, nearly two years ago, the Fourth Circuit overturned that decision and gave new life to the lawsuit. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the Peirce firm’s appeal of the decision.
CSX amended its complaint to include additional claims it said were fraudulent. The Peirce firm filed counterclaims against the company that said it was engaging in fraud by bringing and conducting the lawsuit.
The trial began Dec. 11. When it completed, the eight-person jury deliberated for two-and-a-half hours before returning five unanimous verdicts in favor of CSX.
The first three were its claims against the two members of the Peirce firm and Harron. The jury ruled against the Peirce firm’s counterclaims.
The jury awarded CSX $469,000, an amount that could be tripled because of its finding on CSX’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act claims.
CSX will need to submit a motion for attorneys fees, also. A similar case in Mississippi in which two asbestos attorneys were found to have committed fraud against Illinois Central Railroad has seen a lengthy battle over attorneys fees.
In 2005, federal court judge Janis Graham Jack made national headlines when she uncovered duplicate and fraudulent silica diagnoses in her Texas courtroom. Many of those diagnoses were made by Harron and were made on plaintiffs who had already brought asbestos claims.
In Jack’s opinion dismissing the claims, she said “These diagnoses were driven by neither health nor justice – they were manufactured for money.”
Following Harron’s admission that he did not even make the diagnoses of the patients whose x-rays he read, Jack noted that most of “these diagnoses are more the creation of lawyers than doctors.”