Recht rules for CSX in brain damage cases

By Steve Korris | Jun 4, 2010


WHEELING – Circuit Judge Arthur Recht granted summary judgment to CSX Transportation in seven suits blaming the railroad for brain damage in workers, after declaring medical evidence behind the suits unreliable.

"There just isn't a trial worthy issue," Recht said at a hearing on May 17.

"It became obvious to me after trying six or eight cases, I don't know the number, that the types of witnesses that the plaintiff was relying on just simply didn't have the stuff," he said.

"The jury has spoken without ever returning a verdict for the plaintiffs," he said.

The Pittsburgh firm of Peirce, Raimond and Coulter filed two of the suits for CSX workers, claiming exposure to solvents caused brain damage.

West Virginia University took money from the firm and generated solvent exposure research for the firm's benefit without disclosing the conflict of interest.

Lead researcher Marc Haut testified in 2008 that he received half of each payment.

After researchers agreed to exclude workers with active lawsuits from the study, they included workers with past and future lawsuits.

For that reason, Recht rejected the study as evidence last year.

He found no evidence that the study was reasonably reliable or appropriate, adding that "the evidence demonstrates the opposite."

By then, the Peirce firm had withdrawn from the solvent cases.

John McTiernan, who took over, didn't show up for Recht's recent hearing.

Recht said, "I just was handed a note that Mr. McTiernan was on the phone if we needed him. If he wanted to be here, he could be here."

He finished with a dire assessment of medical experts.

"I don't want to call it a bias, but it is, I think, the training that public health physicians, occupational physicians, occupational health physicians, that they have a different way of looking at these things that are not evidence based," he said.

"They believe that in an industrial context, and really on a social rather than a legal basis, it would be proper to find a correlation between the exposure in the workplace and the condition," he said.

"That is just not enough, in my judgment," he said.

He asked CSX lawyer Jim Turner of Huntington if they had any cases left.

Turner said, "No, your honor. That does it."

Recht said, "This ends the solvent induced encephalopathy docket, just when I was getting to the point where I could actually pronounce it."

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