Legal Ethics

Railroad Claims Asbestos Law Firm Engaged in Racketeering

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CSX Transportation has expanded its claims against a Pittsburgh law firm that represented thousands of railroad workers filing asbestos suits through a fast-track system in West Virginia.

In a July 14 legal filing in West Virginia federal court, CSX alleges Robert Peirce & Associates used unreliable mass lung screenings and a doctor who diagnosed disease with an eye toward lawsuits in its asbestos cases, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The suit claims the firm engaged in a strategy of “unlawful conduct, including bribery, fraud, conspiracy and racketeering.”

It’s the second time CSX had pursued Robert Peirce & Associates for its asbestos suits, the Post-Gazette says. In 2005, CSX sued the law firm on claims of fraud and negligence, citing the case of a man who won two settlements against the railroad, the second under an assumed identity. The law firm said it wasn’t aware of the double identity fraud, and a jury found no liability for the firm in 2009, the story says.

The new court filing points to 11 cases in which initial screenings found no asbestosis in CSX employees, but second screenings found the disease, according to the story. Robert Peirce & Associates settled just one of the cases, for $25,000. The Peirce firm has filed a counterclaim, saying that in one of the 11 cases, CSX deliberately withheld a document showing a different law firm had already negotiated a settlement. The firm contends the CSX suit is without merit.

Stanford law professor Deborah Hensler told the Post-Gazette that the suit is sending a message to the plaintiffs bar: “We’re going to challenge you. We’re going to make it more expensive for you. We’re going to make it more risky for you.”

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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