By DICK WEEKLEY
HOUSTON – In law as in life, there is right – and there is wrong.
Once again, the mass tort lawyers who travel the gold road of asbestos litigation have been revealed by a federal judge as manipulating litigation for self-enrichment, without regard for the integrity of our civil justice system.
Several years ago, U.S. District Judge Janis Jack discovered that many plaintiff asbestos and silica lawyers were “manufacturing lawsuits for money.”
Last year, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge George Hodges found that certain plaintiff lawyers, including two notorious plaintiff firms in Texas, suppressed evidence in asbestos litigation by failing to honestly report their client’s full history of exposure to asbestos.
Specifically, those lawyers would state one history of exposure in lawsuits against a solvent defendant but, separately, file claims with a different exposure history in seeking payments from the many bankruptcy trusts that have been established by certain companies to dispose of their liabilities in asbestos litigation.
If the rule of law is to prevail in our nation – if our litigation system is going to work as a fair and legitimate way to resolve disputes – then it is imperative that the rules and procedures governing lawsuits be transparent and designed to get to the truth.
Judge Hodges has shown what has long been suspected – there are asbestos plaintiff lawyers who deliberately conceal the true and full asbestos exposure history of their clients in lawsuits.
Their pattern is to state one exposure history in a lawsuit that seeks to maximize the defendant’s role in causing their claimant’s illness, while stating a different exposure history in claims filed with various bankruptcy trusts – a history that, if revealed, would seriously diminish the defendant’s liability to the plaintiff.
This must stop. Once again, Texas has the opportunity to be a leader in resolving asbestos litigation abuses, just as we did a decade ago when our state passed comprehensive asbestos litigation reform – SB 15 has proven effective in eliminating bogus claims while allowing the truly sick to have their lawsuits resolved in a timely and efficient manner.
Our courts should be forums for the honest resolution of disputes, not a field of dreams in which mass tort lawyers play games to enrich themselves at the expense of the integrity of the rule of law.
Weekley is co-founder, chairman and CEO of Texans for Lawsuit Reform.