McGraw should investigate asbestos scam

By The West Virginia Record | Jun 16, 2006

It's well-established that our attorney general likes the offensive, particularly when the prescribed playbook already has been battle-tested by prosecutors elsewhere.

Remember his crusade against tobacco in 1998? The poultry industry in 2000? Against drugmakers in 2001? Microsoft in 2002? Versus Wall Street, including all of America's largest investment banks, in 2003? The mutual fund industry last year?

We know. Save the existence of a state litigation scorecard, it's hard to keep up with who we're all suing at any given time. To be sure, Mr. McGraw is among the most aggressive attorneys general in the U.S., always on the prowl in the name of protecting we ordinary West Virginians.

So we obviously cannot wait until he opens a highly public investigation into the practices of Ray Harron and Robert Altmeyer, those West Virginia doctors accused of conspiring with plaintiff's attorneys to bring fraudulent asbestosis and silicosis claims in courts here and elswwhere.

Like those Wall Street analysts McGraw sued, both doctors were supposed to provide "independent" analysis of patient x-rays for the court. But were they instead acting as rubber stamps, helping the lawyers who hired them manufacture lucrative cases for money?

Presiding over a mass silicosis case, U.S. District Court Judge Janis Jack said as much, quipping last year that "it is apparent that truth and justice had very little to do with these diagnoses." She was inspired by Harron himself, who clammed up on her stand when he was accused of fabricating positive cases.

Since, the nearby Houston Chronicle was moved to call this running fraud "one of the great legal hoaxes in American history." Judges in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania have taken action to stop cases based on these doctors handiwork. Congress opened its own investigation, while grand juries have been convened by the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan and by the state attorney general of Texas.

They're all investigating Ray Harron, who notoriously "diagnosed" tens of thousands of x-rays smack dab in his Bridgeport home. So wouldn't it follow that West Virginia would, too?

If the allegations against Harron and his associated plaintiff's lawyers are true, they surely have major consequences for those truly sick from inhaling asbestos or silica dust. Hundreds of thousands of false claims, enriching healthy workers and their lawyers, have driven many industrial companies into bankruptcy, meaning the cupboard will be bare by the time future, real worker maladies are eventually diagnosed.

Protecting West Virginians means protecting us from scams involving plaintiff's attorneys, too.

Or is it that Mr. "Me Too" only has litigative eyes for big corporations?

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