WHEELING -– CSX Transportation promises not to contact clients of Pittsburgh asbestos lawyer Robert Peirce, but CSX lawyers claim he won't give them a list.
On May 6, Marc Williams and Robert Massie of Huntington asked U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp to require Peirce to identify clients with active claims against CSX.
They asked Stamp to confirm that they can contact former clients about CSX's fraud and racketeering suit against Peirce, Louis Raimond and Mark Coulter.
"Where the representation has terminated, there can be no question that CSX should be free to contact those former clients," they wrote.
Representation ended six years ago in many cases and 10 years in some, they wrote.
"Lawyer defendants are plainly motivated not by a desire to protect their clients' interests, but rather by a desire to conceal evidence of their own wrongdoing," they wrote.
They wrote that Peirce, Raimond and Coulter subjected clients to illegal screenings conducted by an unlicensed technician.
They wrote that Peirce, Raimond and Coulter procured diagnoses from doctors they knew were unreliable.
In April, Peirce asked Stamp to prohibit CSX from contacting present or former clients.
His lawyers, Walter DeForest of Pittsburgh and Robert Lockhart of Charleston, wrote that the firm maintains a relationship with clients even if no claim is pending.
"Allowing CSX to have uncounseled contact with Peirce Firm clients would totally undermine the firm's ongoing duties and obligations to its clients," they wrote.
They proposed that a Peirce firm attorney, other than a defendant, represent any client in any deposition CSX takes.
For CSX, Williams and Massie answered that a rule against communications with clients applies only to currently represented persons.
They wrote that Peirce, Raimond and Coulter conspired with radiologist Ray Harron of Bridgeport to manufacture fraudulent asbestos suits.
They wrote that Peirce, Raimond and Coulter hired a felon, James Corbitt, to take chest X-rays at mass screenings.
They wrote that Peirce, Raimond and Coulter used Harron to interpret X-rays because he identified asbestosis at a rate 30 times the actual rate among railroad workers.
They wrote that after Harron was discredited in silica litigation, Peirce hired Donald Breyer of Oakland, California, "to rubber stamp Harron's prior reads."
They urged Stamp to keep Peirce Firm lawyers away from depositions.
They wrote that the most serious conflict of interest arises when a lawyer uses a representation to protect his or her own professional interests.
They wrote that conflicts also arise when there is a risk that an attorney's testimony might differ from that of a client.
"Indeed, one can easily envision a scenario where a former Peirce firm client believes they were misled or victimized by Mr. Peirce's conduct at issue in this case," they wrote.
Samuel Tarry and Mitchell Morris, of Richmond, Va., also worked on the brief.
Stamp granted summary judgment to the lawyers and Harron in 2009, but Fourth Circuit appeals judges in Richmond reversed him.
He reopened the case but stayed discovery in March, after Peirce expressed his intention to seek Supreme Court review of the Fourth Circuit decision.
As of May 10, Peirce had not posted a notice of appeal.