WHEELING – Every client of Pittsburgh attorney Robert Peirce who intends to pursue an asbestos exposure suit against CSX Transportation in West Virginia must see a pulmonologist, Circuit Judge Arthur Recht of Wheeling has ruled.
On Sept. 14, Recht, responsible for more Peirce suits than anyone can count, elevated pulmonologists over radiologists who for decades supplied evidence behind asbestos litigation.
Recht singled out radiologist Ray Harron of Bridgeport, who lost his license in seven states after a judge caught him diagnosing two diseases in one X-ray, thousands of times.
Recht wrote that on a motion from CSX Transportation he would dismiss, without prejudice, any claim of nonmalignant disease that relied on Harron.
He took other steps to distill valid claims from a mass of Peirce suits against CSX.
By Dec. 31, each plaintiff must submit a statement that he or she is aware of the suit and believes the claim is well founded.
Each plaintiff must state that he or she has been advised of the potential cost of the litigation and desires to pursue it.
Each must read Recht's order and state that he or she is aware that failure to comply might result in dismissal with prejudice.
Those who miss the deadline will transfer to an inactive docket on Feb. 1.
Those who remain active must deliver to the defendants their medical records and a history of other asbestos exposure claims they have pursued.
After that, CSX can depose any plaintiff or pulmonologist.
Recht set an April 1 deadline for pulmonary examinations.
If a claimant died, he wrote, a pulmonologist must review the medical history.
Pulmonologists who examine plaintiffs must testify as experts at trial, he wrote.
Recht and Ohio Circuit Judge Ronald Wilson share responsibility for asbestos claims by appointment of the mass litigation panel of the Supreme Court of Appeals.
Recht handles claims of railroad workers under the Federal Employers Liability Act, and Wilson handles other claims.
CSX lawyer Jim Turner, of Huddleston and Bolen in Huntington, wrote in an Aug. 13 brief that about 2,300 Peirce plaintiffs originally sued.
Recht dismissed about a third, Turner wrote, dropping CSX's count to about 1,580.
Peirce's count has dropped to about 1,200, Turner wrote, adding that he couldn't account for the discrepancy.
Turner wrote that Peirce's firm has classified 69 cases as malignant.