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News
April 28, 2009

U.S. Chamber Urges Attorney General Holder to Investigate and Prosecute Widespread Fraud in Asbestos Litigation

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Chamber of Commerce today released a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder highlighting widespread evidence of asbestos litigation fraud and the necessity of immediate and serious intervention.

In the letter, Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said, “wrongdoers continue to escape prosecution and are not being held accountable for conduct that has inflicted unwarranted economic damage to companies and their employees, undermined the integrity of our civil justice system and deprived the truly sick of compensation for their injuries. It is unfathomable to the business community that federal prosecutors could ignore this conduct, especially when it is revealed repeatedly and openly around the country.”

To protect the integrity of the U.S. civil justice system, Donohue called on the Department of Justice to “prioritize and complete its investigations of asbestos litigation fraud” that appear to have “been allowed to languish without criminal prosecutions against those responsible for committing perhaps the largest systematic litigation fraud in this country’s history.”

The letter also cited evidence of longstanding, pervasive corruption on the part of plaintiffs’ attorneys in asbestos litigation, including:

  • A March 2009 West Virginia state court case, which revealed “disturbing allegations that asbestos plaintiffs’ lawyers enabled and tacitly encouraged their client to forge asbestos diagnoses by providing him with a cash advance and preprinted diagnosis forms without a signature” as well as falsifying names, addresses and phone numbers;
  • A February 2009 civil RICO lawsuit in Mississippi “alleging massive racketeering activities against doctors and plaintiffs’ lawyers for manufacturing asbestos claims;”
  • An Ohio state court judge who, in 2007, barred one of the country’s top asbestos plaintiffs’ firms from his court, stating the firm told “lies upon lies upon lies” in an asbestos case there;
  • A Michigan state court judge who disqualified the findings of an asbestos doctor who had diagnosed more than 7,000 asbestos plaintiffs. In November 2007, the judge found the diagnoses “unreliable” after the doctor failed the test that certified physicians to read x-rays for lung disease and had submitted nearly identical reports for all his diagnoses;
  • A January 2009 New York state ruling to revoke the medical license of Dr. Ray Harron, who diagnosed more than 51,000 people with asbestos-related diseases and thousands more with silica-related diseases. Grounds for revocation included “negligent and fraudulent practices” and “perpetrating a fraud on the courts.” One month later, a federal judge presiding over multi-district asbestos litigation in Philadelphia also disqualified Dr. Harron as an expert in thousands of claims; and
  • An alarming increase in asbestos cases in Madison County, IL – long considered the worst asbestos and mass tort jurisdictions in the country. Cases there hit a low of 266 in 2006, but spiked to more than 600 cases filed in 2008.

Asbestos litigation fraud has negatively impacted the U.S. economy, having caused 84 bankruptcies and costing 60,000 jobs, according to the Chamber. In addition, the alleged widespread fraud in asbestos litigation has, in many cases, Donohue said that it has “delayed justice and compensation for thousands of men and women who were truly injured by asbestos containing products.”

The complete letter from Mr. Donohue to AG Holder can be viewed at:
/sites/default/files/images2/pdf/agholder.pdf

ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels. The U.S. Chamber is the world’s largest business federation representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region.

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