Results matching “silicosis”

Silicosis doctors testify: denouement - PointOfLaw Forum

(Earlier entries in the series: Dec. 21; Feb. 17; Feb. 27; Mar. 2; Mar. 14; Mar. 16; Mar. 21.)

Readers here have been following the scandal revealed in the silcosis multi-district litigation hearings in Corpus Christi. Doctors, in cahoots with lawyers, farmed clients with hundreds of bogus silicosis diagnoses a day. Though silicosis kills perhaps 200 people a year, somehow there were 20,000 silicosis lawsuits being brought in Mississippi alone. Judge Janis Graham Jack, in a blistering 249-page opinion, held such evidence inherently unreliable.

"These diagnoses were about litigation rather than healthcare. It is apparent that truth and justice had very little to do with these diagnoses—otherwise more effort would have been devoted to ensuring they were accurate. Instead, these diagnoses were driven neither by health nor justice: they were manufactured for money."

Though that decision is not binding on state courts that will eventually handle the cases after a jurisdictional remand, one hopes it will be influential. An even bigger scandal might be the fact that this is the first time a court has inquired into the mass screenings fraud in asbestos and silicosis suits. More than 65% of the silica plaintiffs had previously sued over asbestos. Ray Harron, criticized in Corpus Christi, has made 52,000 asbestos diagnoses.

Judge Jack singled out O'Quinn, Laminack and Pirtle (OL Jun. 18, 2004 and links therein) for criticism:

"The clear motivation for O'Quinn's micro-management of the diagnostic process was to inflate the number of plaintiffs and overwhelm the defendants and the judicial system. This is apparently done in hopes of extracting mass nuisance-value settlements because the defendants and the system are financially incapable of examining the merits of each individual claim in the usual manner."

Judge Jack's sanctions, however, were limited to about eight thousand dollars in attorney's fees (not $825,000, as the Wall Street Journal reported), in part because the defendants were unable to meet the restrictive standards for proving fraudulent joinder (cf. Mar. 28 and OL Jul. 11), which meant that she also held that she did not have jurisdiction over the vast majority of the cases that were removed by defendants from state court to federal court. Unless criminal prosecutors move in, there may not be much deterrence of this fraud. A federal grand jury in New York has been issuing subpoenas. (Neal Falgoust, "Judge: Cases about money, not justice", Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Jul. 2; Mary Alice Robbins, "Silica Order Could Affect Future Mass Tort Litigation", Texas Lawyer, Jul. 12; Wall Street Journal, "The Silicosis Sheriff", Jul. 14 ($); Neal Falgoust, "Judge may sway other silicosis suits", Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Jul. 6; Mike Tolson, "Attorneys behind silicosis suits draw U.S. judge's wrath", Houston Chronicle, Jul. 2).

Silicosis doctors testify VI - PointOfLaw Forum

(Previous entry: Mar. 16.)

"You mean I could go to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and buy an X-ray machine and take it to Wal-Mart and start taking X-rays?" A round-up of press coverage: Mary Alice Robbins, "Judge in Silicosis Suits Critical of Plaintiffs Counsel", Texas Lawyer, Mar. 21; Lynn Brezosky, "Judge stunned at use of X-ray machine to diagnose silicosis", AP, Feb. 18. Dr. Todd Coulter's X-ray practice, the subject of controversy at the hearings, is, ironically, covered unironically as a wonderful new business model by the American Medical News, normally a proponent of litigation reform. (Mike Norbut, "Money woes solved with cash-only practice", Feb. 10, 2003). By some plaintiffs' theory of asbestos manufacturer liability, which asks unrelated corporations to pay for the fear of exposure, the plaintiffs' attorneys would be liable for the screening companies' exposure of potential clients to radiation. Any class action attorneys specialize in poetic justice?

Silicosis doctors testify V - PointOfLaw Forum

(Previous entry: Mar. 14.) Defense attorneys asked for over $1 million in sanctions at a hearing Monday. When Dr. Martindale first retracted his diagnoses, plaintiffs accused the defense of buying off the doctor and insisted the original diagnoses were correct; unfortunately for them, other doctors followed suit, and then the defense got access to the asbestors trust documents that were the smoking gun. Where's the brave plaintiffs' attorney who will take the cause of 10,000 people who have been falsely told they have silicosis (and who, apparently, were given X-rays by unqualified technicians (hired by plaintiffs' attorneys) who may have overexposed them to undue radiation)? (Neal Falgoust, "Silicosis attorneys want sanctions", Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Mar. 15; March 14 hearing transcript).

Judge Jack is expected to rule by the end of April, though she did issue a $50 sanction to an attorney whose cell-phone went off in court (pp. 36-37). As the attorneys debated appropriate sanctions, Judge Jack mused "I can sanction all the Plaintiff's lawyers to go to those doctors for the rest of their lives."

Silicosis doctors testify IV - PointOfLaw Forum

(Last entry: Mar. 2.)

On March 4, a moving van operated by Ed the Mover pulled up to a Pascagoula strip mall and, empowered by a court order, hauled away the contents of 80 file cabinets from the office of N&M Inc., said Jackson, Miss., lawyer Daniel Mulholland.

"Ed's got a big ZZ Top beard," Mulholland said. "If you ask him what his last name is, he says, 'The Mover.'"

It was a day that N&M co-owner Heath Mason of Grand Bay and some of the country's leading asbestos plaintiffs' lawyers had been trying to prevent for more than a year.

N&M's 80 file cabinets represent 1.5 million pages of files of the pre-eminent "screener" for silicosis. A sanctions hearing is being held in Corpus Christi today to determine whether plaintiffs' attorneys will be required to pay for the audit, which came about after doctors recanted earlier diagnoses arrived at with cursory review. (Eddie Curran, "Doctor's testimony ignites legal storm", Mobile Register, Mar. 13 (via Bashman); Jerry Mitchell, "Silicosis screening process irks judge", Clarion-Ledger, Mar. 6; Neal Falgoust, "Lawyer to release silicosis suit files", Corpus-Christi Caller-Times, Mar. 4; Neal Falgoust, "Judge orders screener to appear today", Corpus-Christi Caller-Times, Mar. 3; motion for sanctions; Plaintiffs' opposition to sanctions).

Silicosis doctors testify III - PointOfLaw Forum

Briefs of 3M and several other defendants who moved for sanctions last Wednesday. The MDL-1553 web-site also has transcripts for some of the recent hearings; the "great red flags of fraud" remark is on page 23 of the Feb. 17 transcript. (Previous posts: Feb. 17, Feb. 27).

Following up on our Feb. 17 entry on the silicosis plaintiffs scandal unfolding in a federal courtroom in Corpus Christi: "U.S. District Judge [Janis] Graham Jack said testimony in a massive silicosis lawsuit raised 'great red flags of fraud' on the part of doctors and plaintiff attorneys involved in the case." A sanctions hearing is scheduled for March 14. (Neal Falgoust, "Case judge: 'Red flags of fraud' are raised", Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Feb. 18; Neal Falgoust, "Doctor decries testing process", Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Feb. 19; Mealey Publications, "Silicosis Cases At Risk After Daubert Hearing; Asbestos Litigation Could Be Affected", Feb. 22 (via Nordberg); In re: Silica Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 1553, S.D. Tex.).

Silicosis doctors testify - PointOfLaw Forum

As we reported Feb. 2, the problem of "double-dipping"--doctors claiming silicosis (and only silicosis) caused injuries for which they previously diagnosed asbestosis has been endemic. Much was uncovered during an October 2004 deposition of Dr. George Martindale, a radiologist who withdrew his diagnoses for over 3000 patients in response to questioning; Martindale had been paid $35 an X-ray reading. Several doctors have followed suit. U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack ordered hearngs to determine whether false diagnoses had been used in the mass silicosis case before her in Texas. Dr. Barry Levy testified yesterday "he diagnosed more than 800 patients during a 72-hour period and that it was common for him to spend no more than a few minutes reviewing X-rays and writing a report for each patient." (Neal Falgoust, "Defense goes after doctors", Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Feb. 17; Neal Falgoust, "Doctors headed to court", Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Feb. 16; Lynn Brezosky, "Doctors ordered to back up thousands of diagnoses", AP, Feb. 16). More coverage: Feb. 27.

Silica double-dipping - PointOfLaw Forum

Out of 8,629 plaintiffs claiming injury from exposure to silica, 5,174 have filed claims seeking (and probably receiving) recovery for injury caused by exposure to asbestos. In a "lawsuit under way in Corpus Christi, Tex., doctors who had signed documents saying that plaintiffs in the case suffered from silicosis backed away from those conclusions when questioned under oath late last year." (Jonathan D. Glater, "Companies Get Weapon in Injury Suits", NY Times, Feb. 2). The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings this morning on asbestos litigation reform; Professor Lester Brickman's testimony is particularly interesting; it seems opponents of asbestos litigation reform are pushing for a loophole in the bill that would encourage such double-recovery.

Silica castle erodes suddenly - PointOfLaw Forum

At an October deposition a radiologist testified, to the dismay of his plaintiff's-bar sponsors, "that he shouldn't have signed his name to silicosis diagnoses that were subsequently used as the medical basis for each of" 3,617 claims of silicosis. According to defendants, screening companies and attorneys have mass-produced dubious claims of silica lung damage (Sept. 22 and links from there) with the most intense activity found in the Gulf Coast stretch that includes Mobile, Ala. and Pascagoula, Miss., dubbed "the screening hub of the universe". Eddie Curran of the Mobile Register, whose reporting on these issues has been outstanding, has the developing story. PDF documents from MDL litigation in Corpus Christi before U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack: motion for summary judgment, exhibit, deposition transcript of George Martindale, MD, judge's order. (Hat tip: Scipio).

Silica lawsuits: castles from sand - PointOfLaw Forum

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]

Plaintiffs' lawyers are trying to turn silica into the next asbestos; though government statistics indicate reduced health problems from the critical industrial sand used to make glass, fiberglass, paints, and ceramics, claims are skyrocketing. Insurers are accusing lawyers of bringing claims of silicosis on behalf of people who have already recovered for alleged asbestosis for the same symptoms. (Jonathan Glater, New York Times, Sep. 5). Using a prominent search engine to find silicosis on the web has a strong chance of leading one to one Texas personal injury law firm or another.

(Cross-posted from Overlawyered, where it ran Sept. 13, 2003)

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