Let the man speak

The SE Texas Record Aug. 6, 2009, 6:39pm

Plaintiffs' attorneys have been calling Dr. Jay Segarra to the stand for years. He was one of the expert witnesses they relied upon most frequently. Now they're scrambling to keep him out of court.

That's because the defense wants him to testify so defense lawyers can review the accuracy of his previous testimony and the reliability of his evidence.

As reported in The Record, Atlanta-based National Service Industries (NSI) filed suit in February, charging that a group of doctors and asbestos testing companies submitted fraudulent diagnoses in pursuit of million-dollar settlements from targeted businesses. Mississippi radiologist Jay Segarra is one of those doctors.

Segarra has been accused of fraud before. Defendants in a previous case asked a Philadelphia judge to exclude the testimony of "a professional witness who, in conjunction with many of the most notorious for-profit mass screening companies in the country, has 'diagnosed' an astonishing number of would-be plaintiffs with asbestosis and/or silicosis--not for any valid medical reason, but solely for profit."

Segarra has made millions testifying for asbestos-obsessed law firms, including Motley Rice of South Carolina and Beaumont's own Provost Umphrey. Both firms are keenly interested in the current case.

Early in July, Motley Rice moved to block the subpoena of Segarra. Provost Umphrey joined the motion two weeks later. Claiming to be acting in the interest of thousands of unnamed clients, they allege that Segarra's status as a consulting expert should preclude his compliance with the court's order to produce X-ray records.

If it can prove its case, NSI may be able to recoup some of the $95 million it has paid out in settlements. And so may other companies who say they were bilked out of millions by bogus X-rays and false testimony. Proving the charge without access to those X-rays and the radiologist who vouched for them is extremely difficult.

The court has a duty to determine the validity of evidence presented to it and the veracity of witnesses appearing before it. Doing that requires the cooperation of Segarra.

Let the man speak.

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