Results matching “silicosis doctors testify”

Today's Wall Street Journal ($) has an editorial on the grand jury investigation. Alabama doctor George Martindale (Dec. 21), who diagnosed 3,617 plaintiffs with silicosis in 48 days, apparently wrote in a letter to Texas attorney Billy H. Davis, Jr.:

"I was soon contacted by you [Mr. Davis]. You said you wanted to retain me as an expert witness before the deposition. I declined. During this conversation, I learned that you had cited me as the diagnosing physician in certain silicosis cases. I told you that I personally had made no diagnoses, that I had not examined any of the patients, and that I had only determined whether the readings were consistent with the disease previously diagnosed. Your response was 'I certainly would hate to hear you say that at your deposition.'"

I'm a little more skeptical than the Wall Street Journal about Martindale's attempt to clear his name. His reports each included the following sentence:

On the basis of the medical history review, which is inclusive of a significant occupational exposure to silica dust, physical exam and the chest radiograph, the diagnosis of silicosis is established within a reasonable degree of medical certainty.

In his deposition, which took place one year ago Saturday, Martindale admitted that he did not know the criteria for making a diagnosis of silicosis, that he knew this language was false, but that the N&M Screening Company requested it to be included, and he "acquiesced." I've posted George Martindale's deposition transcript at the AEI Liability Project site: take a look at pages 101-103 (page 45-46 in the pdf).

Previous entries in the series.

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.

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