WHEELING – A radiologist at the heart of a legal battle regarding fraudulent claims against CSX Transportation says he and the asbestos lawyers he worked with did nothing wrong.
“I never thought we could lose the suit,” Bridgeport radiologist Ray Harron said Wednesday during an assets and liability hearing in U.S. District Court. “We did everything right. Scrupulously right. I never thought it would still be going on.”
Harron and attorneys Robert Peirce and Louis Raimond -- formerly of the Pittsburgh firm Peirce, Raimond & Coulter -- were found to have conspired to fabricate asbestos claims against CSX. Last year, U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp tripled a jury award of nearly $430,000 under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Peirce and Raimond have appealed that nearly $1.3 million decision.
During an assets and liability hearing Wednesday before Magistrate Judge James Seibert, Harron testified that he has a few bank accounts each with less than $1,000 and that he has no other notable assets.
CSX attorneys Mitchell Morris and Marc Williams argued that Harron transferred all of his assets – including more than 400 acres near Bridgeport and several other homes across the country – to his wife in 2004 and 2005 before legal action began against him. They argue that he transferred the property just days before testifying before Judge Janis Graham Jack regarding silica diagnoses and asbestos claims.
But Harron said Wednesday he transferred the property to his wife for estate planning purposes as he was facing a battle with cancer.
After working since his graduation from medical school in 1957, Harron said he now only has a few thousand dollars to his name and has had to borrow money from relatives – primarily his wife – to pay his legal bills.
“I understand you’re trying to get some money from me,” Harron said early during Wednesday’s hearing when he was asked if he understood the allegations and reasons for the hearing. “I’ve paid the lawyers, basically. I’ve had to borrow money from relatives to pay for these lawsuits.
“I owe $214,000 plus interest. I just don’t know when I ran out of money. I’ve spent it all on lawyers.”
Because Harron and attorney Jerald Jones didn’t have all of the information required for Wednesday’s hearing, Seibert adjourned to give them time to compile the information. That hearing won’t be until late March at the earliest.
After the hearing, Harron wouldn’t talk much, but he did elaborate on some issues.
“We didn’t do anything wrong,” he said when asked about why he didn’t think he and the asbestos attorneys would be found guilty of fraud.
He also dismissed claims that he had received $125 per asbestos scan reading. Instead, he said he was paid something like $2 per reading.
“We didn’t make the kind of money your paper has said,” he said.
CSX’s original complaint, filed in 2005, said Peirce’s firm hid nine fraudulent claims among other lawsuits filed by the law firm in West Virginia. The nine suits were filed and settled from 2000 to 2006. 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, the Fourth Circuit overturned that decision and gave new life to the lawsuit. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the defendants’ appeal of the decision. CSX amended its complaint to include two 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, though the jury ruled for CSX on them.
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.”