WHEELING – Bridgeport radiologist Ray Harron rises to rescue his reputation six years after federal judge Janis Jack concluded that he schemed with lawyers to manufacture diagnoses of lung disease.
Harron denied Jack's allegations on Nov. 7, in response to a civil fraud and racketeering complaint that CSX Transportation filed in federal court at Wheeling on Oct. 19.
He claimed CSX slandered and defamed him by suing him and quoting Jack, a Texas federal judge.
"All and each of the allegations and statements made by the plaintiff are false, malicious, and untrue," Jerald Jones of Clarksburg wrote for Harron.
Jones wrote that CSX injured Harron's good name, causing him great emotional distress and pecuniary damages.
Jones denied that Harron's readings were medically unreasonable.
He didn't deny that Harron lost his medical license in seven states, but wrote that "the cause was Judge Jack, not misconduct, as no misconduct was ever established."
He didn't deny that Harron pleaded Fifth Amendment privilege against self incrimination, but wrote that he did it on the advice of a lawyer.
CSX first sued Harron in 2005, along with former CSX worker Robert Gilkison and Pittsburgh lawyers Robert Peirce, Mark Coulter and Louis Raimond.
Gilkison, who recruited plaintiffs, beat CSX's claim but gave up documents showing Peirce compensated him while he collected railroad retirement benefits.
Earlier this year, he paid the government $200,000 to settle a civil claim.
District Judge Frederick Stamp granted summary judgment to Harron and the lawyers in 2009, finding a statute of limitations ran out.
Appellate judges in Richmond reversed Stamp last December, ruling CSX could amend its complaint to fix the limitations problem.
Marc Williams of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough in Huntington filed the new complaint, claiming defendants deliberately fabricated and prosecuted unreasonable, false and fraudulent asbestos claims.
He alleged a pattern and practice of bribery, fraud, conspiracy and racketeering.
He wrote that Jack concluded that Harron and others in multi district silica litigation were all willing participants in a scheme to manufacture diagnoses for money.
He wrote that Jack described Harron's manner as distressing and disgraceful.
"Judge Jack noted almost 2,000 instances where Harron first found that a plaintiff exhibited signs of asbestosis and then later concluded that the plaintiff exhibited signs of silicosis," he wrote. "In Judge Jack's words, a golfer is more likely to hit a hole in one than an occupational medicine specialist is to find a single case of both silicosis and asbestosis."
He wrote that Peirce paid Harron per X-ray, rather than per hour, enhancing Harron's incentive to read as many x-rays as possible without regard to established protocols.
He wrote that according to Peirce, Harron's rate of positive readings was 65 percent.
"The lawyer defendants knew and expected that over time the fraudulent doctors they utilized would eventually assign positive scores to virtually all screening attendees regardless of whether those individuals actually exhibited signs of asbestos related disease," he wrote.
He identified 11 cases in which Harron reversed a diagnosis from negative to positive after a second X-ray, though the X-rays revealed no changes.
He sought compensatory damages for the cost of processing, defending and settling those 11 claims. He sought punitive damages, alleging intentional, willful, wanton, malicious and reckless conduct, and he sought triple damages.
CSX aims to use the 11 reversals as tools to pry into thousands of cases, but Harron aims to spin the action backward.
According to Jones, the complaint contained false, malicious, defamatory, misleading and vexatious allegations.
He wrote that Harron read X-rays in several states including West Virginia and Pennsylvania, as a contractor for Peirce and other firms.
He wrote that Harron secured licenses in several states so there would be no question as to his authority or ability to read X-rays and give opinions in the courts of those states.
"Defendant never claimed to be a treating physician to the workers whose X-rays he read, but acted simply as an independent medical examiner to give his expert opinion as to whether the worker may have sustained damages to the lungs from asbestos exposure," he wrote. "At all times material hereto, defendant followed the applicable standard of care."
Jones also argued that a statute of limitations ran out because Harron's involvement with Peirce's firm ended in 2005.