Dr. Ray Harron's office in Bridgeport.
WHEELING – A saga that already involves a made-up doctor now includes a missing physician.
On Oct. 24, CSX Transportation filed federal court papers in Wheeling seeking an extension to serve papers on Bridgeport radiologist Dr. Ray Harron.
CSX is trying to located Harron to serve him papers regarding a lawsuit it filed in 2005 against a Pittsburgh law firm. CSX maintains the firm and others associated with it – including Harron – filed false claims against it. CSX alleges Harron "engaged in fraudulent conduct while working as a B-reader and that he either recklessly disregarded or deliberately misrepresented the content of the X-rays he read for and on behalf of the defendant Peirce, Raimond & Coulter, P.C."
In the court documents, CSX says it has tried to serve the papers to Harron for several months. But Marc Williams, a Huntington attorney with Huddleston Bolen who represents CSX, writes that the company can't locate the doctor anywhere, and officials fear Harron has fled the country.
"CSXT has learned that Dr. Harron maintains a residence in several states including Texas, Florida, North Carolina and West Virginia as well as maintaining duel-citizenship with several foreign states including Ireland, Jamaica and other Caribbean nations," court papers say. "CSXT has received information through witness interviews that Dr. Harron may have fled the jurisdiction of the United States, without intention to return, in an attempt to avoid any possible civil and/or criminal matters.
"Whether Dr. Harron has specifically left the jurisdiction due to the pendency of this matter is unknown. It is upon information and belief, however, that Dr. Harron may have fled this jurisdiction in an attempt to avoid potential liability for his actions in various matters."
Because it has been unable to find Harron, CSX asks for an extension of the normal 120-day period to serve the papers.
CSX also says Harron is trying to hide assets.
"Dr. Harron has transferred a substantial amount of his personal assets including property into his wife's name and what is believed by CSXT to be an attempt to hinder efforts to locate him through traditional methods," the motion states.
The search for Harron
Williams, in court documents, said the Harrison County Sheriff's Department and private investigators hired by Huddleston Bolen couldn't find Harron either.
"Dr. Harron, in what is believed to be a deliberate attempt to avoid being located, has been able to conceal his whereabouts from CSXT preventing proper service," the papers say.
First, CSX tried to serve Harron at his Bridgeport home and office complex.
"CSXT was unsuccessful at either location being advised by his office workers that he had gone for several weeks and that it was unlikely that he would be returning soon," the court papers say.
CSX then asked the sheriff's department to serve the papers, with the same results.
The sheriff's department advised CSX "that several individuals were looking for Dr. Harron and they believed that he was located somewhere in the state of Florida, but could not provide any further information," the court motion says.
CSX then learned of other addresses for Harron in Texas. The papers were sent via certified mail, but that also was unsuccessful. CSX then hired private investigators in both West Virginia and Texas.
"These investigators have conducted a significant investigation into Dr. Harron's whereabouts, including surveillance, witness interviews and background checks to ascertain his location, but as of the date of this filing of this motion have been unsuccessful in their attempts to locate Dr. Harron," the motion states.
CSX first filed the lawsuit in 2005 against the Peirce firm and Robert Gilkison, one of its employees. The complaint said two CSX employees came up with a plan to defraud the company by having an employee who already had been diagnosed with asbestosis show up for an X-ray screen for another employee with no signs of the illness. Harron reviewed those X-rays for the Peirce firm, the suit states.
CSX, one of the nation's largest rail companies and a frequent target of asbestos claims, says Gilkison, who was hired by the Peirce firm as a "runner" to round up former colleagues for lawsuits, suggested that CSX employee Ricky May get someone who previously tested positive to pretend to be him at a 2000 asbestos screening.
CSX claims May had Danny Jayne, a CSX worker who had been diagnosed with asbestosis in 1999, to impersonate him for the X-ray. The suit says Gilkison helped make this happen by letting May complete the paperwork and walking Jayne through the exam.
The Peirce Law Firm, which specializes in asbestosis claims, has acknowledged that scam, but says it wasn't behind it. The firm also says it didn't know about Gilkison's part in the plan and that, because he was a contractor, it isn't responsible for Gilkison's actions.
More on Harron
Harron reportedly was paid millions by lawyers to diagnose potential asbestos victims. He sometimes did it at the rate of one patient per minute, reports say. The New York Times has reported that Harron made 75,000 diagnoses since the mid-1990s, commonly reading as many as 150 x-rays per day, at a rate of $125 each.
"In the eyes of defense lawyers fighting some of those claims, Dr. Harron was not a professional rendering an independent opinion, but a vital cog in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit machine," The New York Times said of Harron. "They contend that Dr. Harron's X-ray evaluations are unreliable at best, fraudulent at worst.
The Times also said that in 2005, Federal Judge Janis Graham Jack found that Harron ''failed to write, read, or personally sign'' reports supporting 6,350 claims by people saying they had inhaled silica, another potentially dangerous material.
Testifying before Jack, Harron admitted to making diagnoses from X-rays taken by a screening company using mobile machines in parking lots. There were no doctors supervising the X-rays. The owners of the screening company said they were working for lawyers.
Harron said he did not physically examine the patients. He also testified that secretaries interpreted his X-ray readings into diagnoses letters that were rubber-stamped with his signature and mailed without his final read.
He also testified to making silicosis diagnoses in the same patients he had once diagnosed with asbestosis. Experts say it is very rare for a person to have both diseases.
Jack wrote that the diagnoses relied on X-rays and on medical histories taken by screening companies or law firms, not on physical examinations, as the reports under his name claimed.
"When Dr. Harron first examined 1,807 plaintiffs' X-rays for asbestos litigation," Jack wrote, "he found them all to be consistent only with asbestosis and not with silicosis." But after re-examining X-rays of the same 1,807 people "for silica litigation, Dr. Harron found evidence of silicosis in every case."
Now retired, Harron is a B-reader, which is a doctor certified by the national Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to detect abnormalities such as black lung, asbestos and silicosis in chest X-rays.
The case of the fake doctor
In another suit involving CSX, the Peirce firm and Harron, the railroad giant unearthed another scandal when Rodney Chambers of Huntington fabricated a doctor who he claimed had treated him for asbestosis.
Chambers filed his asbestosis complaint against CSX in Marshall Circuit Court on April 9, 2002. The Peirce firm filed a motion to refer Chambers and several hundred other consolidated cases to mediation. That process was similar to other trial plans that CSX says forced it to rely upon limited information provided by the Peirce Firm, including x-rays taken at its occupational asbestosis screenings, for settlement negotiations.
Last year, CSX said Chambers provided the name of a Dr. Oscar Frye in Huntington as the physician who treated him for his asbestosis. But through its investigation, CSX "determined that there has never been a physician, chiropractor, podiatrist, physician's assistant or osteopath licensed to practice in the State of West Virginia by any licensing board or agency with the name 'Oscar Frye.'"
Upon further investigation, the phone number Chambers listed for Dr. Frye has belonged to a Huntington woman for 12 years, and the address he listed for Frye's office does not exist in Huntington and hasn't since at least 1954.
"Without faking this type of medical evidence, plaintiff Chambers would not have been able to allege a proper cause of action against CSXT," CSX claimed.
CSX also says the Peirce firm that specializes in asbestosis claims provided its plaintiffs with a "pre-printed form and diagnosis regarding their potential claim and its alleged cause."
U.S. District Court case number: 5:05-cv-202