News of Harron's lawsuit in Mississippi nothing new for Texas

Marilyn Tennissen Feb. 19, 2009, 4:47am

Dr. Ray Harron

A recently filed Mississippi lawsuit accuses West Virginia radiologist Dr. Ray Harron and others of participating in an alleged scheme involving asbestos screenings for the purpose of lawsuits.

But the news surrounding Dr. Harron is nothing new in Texas. A Corpus Christi judge first looked into the doctor's screening techniques four years ago. Her investigation resulted in Dr. Harron having his Texas medical license revoked.

In 2005, several defense attorneys began to notice that most of the 10,000 plaintiffs with silicosis cases had also filed claims that they had asbestosis.

Because the dual diagnosis of silicosis and asbestosis is very rare, the attorneys brought the situation to the attention of U.S. District Court Judge Janis Jack.

Judge Jack, who is also a nurse, held a series of hearings to look into the credibility of the diagnoses of many of the cases pending before her court in Corpus Christi.

Dr. Ray Harron was one of the doctors that had regularly diagnosed both silicosis and asbestosis. The doctor's diagnoses supported thousands of claims filed against companies that manufactured or used silica.

Judge Jack called on the doctor to explain.

Dr. Harron testified about his diagnoses of silicosis, a lung disease caused by exposure to silica, a hard, glassy mineral used as a cleaning abrasive as well as in making glass, paint, ceramics and other materials.

Judge Jack wrote that the diagnoses relied on X-rays and on medical histories taken by screening companies or law firms, not on physical examinations, as the reports bearing Dr. Harron's name claimed.

Judge Jack found other evidence of Dr. Harron's questionable diagnosing technique.

"When Dr. Harron first examined 1,807 plaintiffs' X-rays for asbestos litigation," Judge Jack wrote, "he found them all to be consistent only with asbestosis and not with silicosis." But after re-examining X-rays of the same 1,807 people "for silica litigation, Dr. Harron found evidence of silicosis in every case."

Dr. Harron admitted he had his employees produce form letters of diagnoses and stamped his name on them. He made as many as 150 of these "diagnoses" a day for litigation purposes and acknowledged that he never looked at the letters.

After this admission, he refused further testimony and asked for a lawyer.

"If you're accusing me of fabricating things, I think that's a serious charge," Dr. Harron said to Judge Jack.

The diagnoses "were manufactured for money," Judge Jack wrote in 250-page opinion on June 30, 2005, that sent some claims back to state courts and imposed sanctions on one of the plaintiff firms, O'Quinn, Laminack & Pirtle.

"The record does not reveal who originally devised this scheme, but it is clear that the lawyers, doctors and screening companies were all willing participants," Judge Jack wrote.

On April 13, 2007, the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners stripped Dr. Harron of his right to practice medicine in Texas.

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