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"The Silicosis Bar Association"

Yesterday's WSJ editorializes:

The now-defunct Houston firm of O'Quinn, Laminack & Pirtle, for instance, liked to point out that its firm doesn't handle asbestos cases. (The argument being that it therefore couldn't profit twice.) Former partner Richard Laminack repeated this denial to Congress last week. Yet the very same day, several silicosis defendants filed a motion in Mississippi court claiming that, in 2002, the O'Quinn firm had represented a Roger Redditt in both asbestos and silicosis claims. According to the motion, Mr. Redditt was diagnosed with both diseases by the same Dr. Ray Harron, and the suits were filed within weeks of each other.

The Redditt case also appears to be just one example of how O'Quinn used the same clients twice. Mr. Laminack admitted to Congress that O'Quinn had once financed a separate Houston law firm, Foster Harssema. The Foster firm then handled asbestos claims, while the O'Quinn firm handled silicosis. Mr. Laminack acknowledged that he and another former O'Quinn partner were listed as managers of the Foster firm, and that O'Quinn collected referral fees for asbestos cases that Foster won.

None of these suits would have been possible without a handful of for-hire doctors. Some of these docs have since recanted their diagnoses; others have taken the Fifth. Congress got the lawyers to fill in some blanks about their relationships with these "experts." Campbell Cherry partner Billy Davis confirmed that his law firm had provided doctors with the language they were to use in silicosis diagnoses -- the better to make them admissible in court. Mr. Davis, who made quite a to-do in his opening statement about his firm's high standards, admitted that his firm had only paid screening companies for positive diagnoses.

A webcast of the Congressional hearing is online, and a transcript will be available in 60-90 days.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.