WHEELING -- CSX Transportation says a law firm it accuses of fabricating claims for asbestos lawsuits won't allow it to depose enough individuals to make its case.
CSX is asking U.S. Magistrate Judge James Seibert of West Virginia's northern district to allow it depose several dozen individuals it feels have relevant information about the alleged scheme. The Pittsburgh firm Peirce, Raimond & Coulter only agreed to let CSX take 20 depositions, however.
In January, Seibert ordered the Peirce firm to hand over documents about radiologist Ray Harron, a defendant in the suit who is alleged to have produced false diagnoses.
"The recently produced documents ... make clear that other Peirce Firm employees ... communicated with Harron and the Lawyer Defendants concerning the Peirce Firm's asbestos practice or otherwise had regular involvement in the claims at issue," CSX's attorneys wrote Thursday.
"Fairness dictates that CSXT be permitted to depose these and other similarly situated individuals so that it can develop evidence in support of its claims that can be used at the summary judgment stage and in preparation for trial."
Currently, CSX has 10 depositions available. The company calls them "insufficient."
Instead, the company would like to depose:
* The four defendants (Robert Peirce, Louis Raimond, Mark Coulter and Harron);
* Nine plaintiffs in 11 asbestos cases at issue;
* Nine doctors, in addition to Harron, from which the firm obtained asbestos-related opinions in the 11 cases at issue;
* Other fact witnesses, such as Peirce Firm employees; and
* Defendants' experts in CSX's case.
CSX says the first three categories will require 22 depositions. Seibert has scheduled an evidentiary hearing and argument on CSX's request for April 27 in Wheeling.
CSX sued the Peirce firm in 2005. U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp granted summary judgment to the defendants in 2009, finding a statute of limitations had run out.
In late 2010, judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond remanded the case to Stamp with instructions to let CSX amend the complaint.
CSX amended the complaint in 2011. Stamp referred the case to Seibert.
In 2005, federal court judge Janis Graham Jack made national headlines when she uncovered duplicate and fraudulent silica diagnoses in her Texas courtroom. Many of those diagnoses were made by Harron and were made on plaintiffs who had already brought asbestos claims.
In Jack's opinion dismissing the claims, she said "These diagnoses were driven by neither health nor justice - they were manufactured for money."
Following Harron's admission that he did not even make the diagnoses of the patients whose x-rays he read, Jack noted that most of "these diagnoses are more the creation of lawyers than doctors."