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May 15, 2004

Silica lawsuits: castles from sand

Mississippi is far outpacing the rest of the country in silica litigation (see Sept. 13): "More than 17,000 plaintiffs in this state have sued U.S. Silica, a leading producer of silica sand, for allegedly causing them to develop an incurable lung disease." One lawsuit filed at the courthouse in Macon, Miss. "was filed by 4,200 plaintiffs, close to double the 2,461 residents in this Noxubee County town." Less than one percent of the plaintiffs are actually from Mississippi, the others having been brought there by their lawyers to sue. Critics say law firms are using mass solicitation and screening techniques to recruit thousands of claimants with no actual disability, as was done earlier with asbestos. One silica plaintiff, "62-year-old Noah Myers Bufkin of Lucedale, said he was diagnosed in a mass screening as having silicosis, although he can't say for sure he has any symptoms. ...The same screening company diagnosed him as having asbestosis seven or eight years ago, he said. He estimates he has received about $10,000 from that suit. .... He doesn't know of any symptoms he's suffering from silicosis or asbestosis. 'I'm saving up in case I do have a problem,' he said. 'For a poor fella like me, every little bit helps.'" (Jerry Mitchell, "Silica suits latest to hit Miss. courts", Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Oct. 19).

[cross-posted from Overlawyered where it ran Nov. 12, 2004]

Posted by Walter Olson at 10:16 PM | TrackBack (0)

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