Testimonials are one of the best ways for marketers to drum up new business for themselves. Unpaid endorsements of products or services from satisfied customers can be very effective in generating additional demand.

Of course, if customers are dissatisfied, a marketer might want to muzzle them instead.

Pittsburgh asbestos attorney Robert Peirce doesn't want anyone talking to hundreds of his former clients –- at least, not anyone from the law firms representing CSX Transportation, which is suing Peirce for fraud.

Last June, Circuit Court Judge Arthur Recht dismissed, with prejudice, more than 1,400 asbestos claims filed against CSX Transportation by Peirce's firm. Unwilling or unable to comply with Recht's demand for certification of client awareness and claim substantiation, Peirce's firm moved to dismiss all but 64 claims.

In a separate action at the end of 2010, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., reinstated a fraud case filed against his firm by CSX. The suit alleges that Peirce's firm conspired with radiologist Ray Harron to fabricate asbestos claims.

A CSX claim handler subsequently contacted one of the 1,400 plaintiffs whose claim had been dismissed, but was told that Peirce still represented him.

Now Peirce's attorney, Walter DeForest, has asked U.S. Judge Frederick Stamp to prohibit further contacts of Peirce clients by CSX.

"Allowing CSX to have uncounseled contact with Peirce Firm clients," DeForest warned, "would totally undermine the firm's ongoing duties and obligations to its clients."

It might also undermine Peirce's defense against fraud allegations.

DeForest asserted that it was in the interest of Peirce and his clients "to defend the proposition that the plaintiffs in earlier claims against CSX had suffered legally cognizable asbestos injuries due to their employment with CSX."

Obviously, to do otherwise would invite claims of fraud.

If just one of those 1,400 clients points an implicating finger at the firm, Peirce could be in big trouble. No wonder he doesn't want CSX talking to any of them.

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