Deter Dr. Harron

by The West Virginia Record |
Feb. 12, 2009, 8:00am

"Intentional. Premeditated. Criminal."

Those are the words of CSX attorney Marc Williams, used to describe the actions of Dr. Ray Harron in a brief filed late last month in federal court.

Williams was arguing the court should make Dr. Harron pay punitive damages for his alleged misdeeds involving extremely unethical and wicked behavior.

It's hard to describe Harron's actions as anything else, court filings reflect.

Consider that Harron is accused of abusing the trust and credibility of his medical license, accused of purposely falsifying an x-ray so as to enable a group of plaintiff's lawyers to file a mass lawsuit against a major West Virginia employer on behalf of 250 supposedly sick people.

A West Virginia circuit court dismissed the suits -- most of the plaintiffs didn't live here -- and the state Supreme Court of Appeals agreed with its ruling. But the plaintiff's lawyers, armed in part with Dr. Harron's x-ray, fought on -- dragging CSX to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That case is pending. Which means the legal fees meter for CSX is running as well.

The company isn't alone in its suffering. The New York Times reported Bridgeport radiologist Dr. Harron personally earned millions for doing some 76,000 questionable x-ray readings for plaintiff's asbestos lawyers. And a federal judge found that he "failed to write, read, or personally sign" more than 6,000 x-ray readings of plaintiffs claiming they had silicosis, a lung disease.

CSX' case is about the damage wrought by a single one of them. But the outcome could affect hundreds of cases.

If doctors abuse their licenses for personal financial gain, it hurts the credibility of all doctors.

And if lawyers had urged them on, using their privileged positions to file lawsuits which seemed based less for justice than for money, everyone with a law degree is damaged.

And when employers are forced to spend millions defending questionable lawsuits, rather than returning that money to shareholders or investing to create new jobs, it inflicts pain on all of us.

Punitive damages are there to serve as a deterrent. Our courts should do all they can to deter any doctor whose proven conduct mirrors the allegations leveled against the likes of Dr. Ray Harron.

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