CSX seeks additional fees in fraud case against asbestos attorneys

By John O'Brien | Apr 23, 2013

WHEELING – As it argues for attorneys fees in a fraud case against Pittsburgh asbestos attorneys, CSX Transportation says it is incurring even more fees and wants repaid.

The company supplemented its original motion for attorneys fees and litigation expenses on April 12, claiming it is owed another $268,323 from the former law partners Robert Peirce and Louis Raimond and radiologist Ray Harron.

A jury found in December that the three conspired to fabricate asbestos claims filed in West Virginia.

“It is well settled under 18 U.S.C. 1964(c) and other federal fee-shifting provisions that prevailing parties are entitled to be compensated for time spent preparing and defending requests for attorneys fees and costs,” the company’s motion says.

“Prevailing parties are likewise entitled to recover fees incurred in connection with other post-trial motions, including time spent defending unsuccessful motions for new trial or for judgment as a matter of law.”

Of the $268,323 requested, approximately $58,772 is contingent on the court’s resolution of post-trial motions in CSX’s favor.

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.

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.

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 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 defendants ask that the damages amount be reduced to $95.368.98. They 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.

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.”

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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