Mississippi judge throws out cases diagnosed by Harron

By Ann Knef | Dec 22, 2005

Harron Square in Bridgeport is home to Dr. Ray Harron's office. A Mississippi judge has thrown out 4,202 silicosis claims following the lead set by a federal judge in Texas who hammered the plaintiffs' diagnoses as "manufactured."

Harron Square in Bridgeport is home to Dr. Ray Harron's office.

A Mississippi judge has thrown out 4,202 silicosis claims following the lead set by a federal judge in Texas who hammered the plaintiffs' diagnoses as "manufactured."

Bridgeport radiologist Ray A. Harron is responsible for making the initial diagnoses in the Mississippi cases.

Scorned as "a vital cog" in the nation's multibillion-dollar asbestos and silicosis "lawsuit machine," Harron has said that he has made as many as 53,000 diagnoses.

Harron, who has testified that he produced form letter diagnoses, gradually stopped seeing patients and instead focused on reading X-rays and preparing medical reports for asbestos litigants-a practice that paid him handsomely--to the tune of $10 million.

"He was hired by personal injury lawyers to perform mass screenings on potential asbestos victims, many whom were never seen by a doctor and were falsely diagnosed," said Steve Cohen, executive director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, a watchdog group.

"West Virginia used to have to fight moonshine in the hollers," he said. "Now, it's x-rays in lawsuit mills."

Defense lawyer Fred Krutz said that Noxubee County Circuit Judge James T. Kitchens' mass dismissal is good for people who are truly sick because fraudulent claims won't clog the courts.

"That's the worst of all of this," Cohen said. "While tens of thousands of bogus claims are filed, those truly sick and deserving of compensation lose out. For our courts to be fair, juries need accurate information from reputable experts."

According to a report in the Clarion Ledger, only 79 plaintiffs remain from the Mississippi cases filed by the Campbell Cherry law firm in Waco, Texas.

"We are pleased that plaintiffs' counsel have finally agreed to dismiss these cases; however, dismissing the cases now does not change the fact the cases never should have been filed in the first place," Krutz was quoted in the Clarion Ledger report. "As (U.S. District) Judge (Janis Graham) Jack (of Corpus Christi, Texas) said, 'In the majority of cases, these diagnoses are more the creation of lawyers than of doctors.'"

Jack, who presided over multi-district litigation involving cases filed from across the country, issued a hard-hitting report in July in which she charged there were "red flags of fraud."

"These diagnoses were driven by neither health nor justice," Jack wrote. "They were manufactured for money."

Jack sanctioned plaintiffs' lawyers in Texas and returned thousands of cases back to Mississippi and other states.

A federal grand jury in New York and a Senate panel are also investigating the possibility of fraud in silicosis and asbestos litigation.

According to the Clarion Ledger report, up until this past year, 20,000 of the 30,000 people who filed silicosis complaints have done so in Mississippi.

It also reported that 5,590 silicosis claims have been dismissed in Mississippi and more are expected.

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