WHEELING – Asbestos attorneys facing a fraud and racketeering verdict have withdrawn their request for a protective order against post-trial discovery requests made by CSX Transportation.
Pittsburgh attorneys Robert Peirce and Louis Raimond filed a motion to withdraw their earlier motion on April 2. It says the two reached an agreement with CSX to resolve the discovery dispute.
The motion was granted later that day by U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp. He cancelled an evidentiary hearing he had planned for April 3.
Peirce and Raimond, formerly of the firm Peirce Raimond & Coulter, submitted their motion for a protective order Feb. 28. They said CSX, which sued them in 2005, has served dozens of intrusive discovery requests on them.
On Dec. 20, an eight-person jury found Peirce, Raimond and Dr. Ray Harron committed racketeering, conspiracy and fraud and ordered them jointly and severally liable for a penalty of $429,240.27.
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, 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.
Other pending motions include the lawyer defendants’ request for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial, CSX’s motion for attorneys fees and costs and CSX’s motion to triple the damages award, pursuant to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
If the verdict is allowed to stand, the attorneys ask that the damages amount be reduced to $95.368.98. The attorneys had previously asked that CSX not be able to recover any damages on RICO claims that post-dated July 5, 2007.
If there were a racketeering scheme, CSX knew about it by then, they argued. The proposed reduction in the verdict amount represents a subtraction of damages for claims after the date, based on legal billings submitted by the company.
On Jan. 21, CSX asked the court to order the defendants to pay its attorneys fees and litigation costs — $9,751,838 and $923,094, respectively.
CSX cited the state Supreme Court’s ruling in a 1992 decision that says, “where it can be shown by clear and convincing evidence that a defendant has engaged in fraudulent conduct which has injured a plaintiff, recovery of reasonable attorneys fees may be obtained in addition to the damages sustained as a result of the fraudulent conduct.”
CSX also claims that courts have rejected arguments that fees awarded should be proportional to the compensatory damages awarded.
One-third of the fees and expenses the company is seeking are attributable to the defendants’ discovery demands, the motion says.
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.”
CSX’s lawsuit was filed later that year.
From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at email@example.com.