Asbestos firm sanctioned before racketeering verdict

By John O'Brien | Dec 27, 2012

WHEELING – Even though a jury has found a former Pittsburgh law firm filed false asbestos claims against CSX Transportation, there are still other issues to be resolved.

On Dec. 27, U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp entered an order explaining his decision to impose sanctions against defendants Robert Peirce and Louis Raimond, two former name partners who were found to have conspired with radiologist Ray Harron to fabricate false asbestos claims against CSX Transportation.

On Dec. 20, an eight-person jury found Peirce, Raimond and Harron committed racketeering, conspiracy and fraud and ordered them jointly and severally liable for a penalty of $429,240.27.

Days before the trial began, CSX complained that the Peirce firm was late in getting more than 8,000 requested pages of information to it and asked Stamp to impose sanctions.

CSX asked Stamp to dismiss the Peirce firm’s counterclaims against it as punishment.

“This court found that sanctions were warranted in this particular case,” Stamp wrote. “However, this court believed that after considering the factors in (Anderson v. Found. For Advancement, Educ. & Emp’t of Am. Indians), those sanctions requested by CSX were not appropriate.

“First, this court was unable to find that the lawyer defendants acted in bad faith in not producing the documents at an earlier date. Second, while this court did find that some prejudice resulted from the lawyer defendants not producing these documents before Dec. 7 and Dec. 7, CSX still had the opportunity to review these documents prior to the issues that those documents concerned arose at trial.

“Third, although not mentioned during the hearing, this court also believed that granting the sanctions requested by CSX would not provide much of a deterrent affect against such things happening again in the future, as no bad faith was involved and the late production seemed to be a mistake or oversight, albeit substantial, on behalf of the lawyer defendants.

“Fourth, this court found that the less drastic sanctions that it imposed would be effective.”

Stamp ruled the Peirce firm could not use the late-produced documents in any way in the case, though CSX could use them without objection by any party.

CSX’s original complaint, filed in 2005, said Peirce’s firm hid nine fraudulent claims among other lawsuits filed by the law firm in West Virginia.
The nine lawsuits were filed and settled from 2000-2006. U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp granted summary judgment to the Peirce firm in 2009, ruling a four-year statute of limitations began when the Peirce firm began targeting CSX.

However, nearly two years ago, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overturned that decision and gave new life to the lawsuit. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the Peirce firm’s appeal of the decision.

CSX amended its complaint to include additional claims it said were fraudulent. The Peirce firm filed counterclaims against the company that said it was engaging in fraud by bringing and conducting the lawsuit, though the jury ruled for CSX on them.

Attorney Marc Williams, who represented CSX, said the jury’s award could be tripled because of the racketeering verdict.

Also on Dec. 27, CSX asked Stamp to provide it with an extension of time to file a motion for attorneys fees.

“Currently, under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, CSXT’s application for those fees is due 14 days from the entry of judgment,” attorneys wrote.

“Given the length and complexity of this case, however, drafting a concise and comprehensive application for such fees is not practical in a 14-day period, particularly given the intervening holidays.”

The motion says the defendants do not object to a 30-day timeframe.

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.”

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