WHEELING – CSX Transportation will not have to provide the amount it has spent on attorneys fees while fighting asbestos claims brought by a Pittsburgh law firm that it says were fabricated.
U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp ruled Oct. 29 to affirm a magistrate’s order that denied the motion of Peirce, Raimond & Coulter. The firm was seeking documents that relate to damages sought by CSX in the form of legal fees.
CSX claims the firm conspired with radiologist Ray Harron to fabricate asbestos claims against the company. This year, it filed a third amended complaint, more than seven years after the case was originally filed.
“While it is true that CSX is requesting attorneys’ fees in this action, the statutes under which CSX is requesting these fees do not require a party to prove these fees at trial, nor has this court or the magistrate judge found any case law indicating such a requirement,” Stamp wrote.
“Consequently, if a verdict is entered in CSX’s favor, CSX must file a motion with this court and thereafter this court will make the determination of the amount of attorneys fees, if any, that will be awarded to CSX.
“Such an award, if made, will be awarded in a separate judgment.”
Stamp agreed with Magistrate James Seibert that the fees information, however, is not protected by attorney-client privilege.
CSX is accusing the firm of filing a massive amount of lawsuits in overburdened courts to prevent the company from any meaningful discovery, which concealed fraudulent claims and leveraged higher settlements.
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. The Peirce firm filed counterclaims, which have also survived a motion to dismiss.
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.”