U.S. SC won't hear appeal of asbestos firm in fraud case

John O'Brien Oct. 11, 2011, 5:33am


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The U.S. Supreme Court will let stand a ruling that reopened a fraud case against a Pittsburgh asbestos law firm.

Monday, the court declined to hear the appeal of the firm Peirce Raimond & Coulter, which is alleged to have conspired to fabricate asbestos claims. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in December that CSX did not miss the statute of limitations when it filed its lawsuit.

The Fourth Circuit decision had overturned a West Virginia federal judge's decision.

CSX argued the statute of limitations did not begin running until the lawsuits it used as examples were found to be meritless.

"The district court, however, conflated the filing of the various underlying suits as, in and of themselves, putting CSX on notice of the fraudulent scheme underlying the RICO counts," the Fourth Circuit's opinion says.

"However, nothing 'clearly appears' on the face of the complaint to show that the filing of these suits by the lawyer defendants, as well as the settlements, establish that CSX knew or ought to have known by July 2003 that the alleged fraud was afoot.

"Additional factual development may or may not prove that premise, but it is not plainly apparent on the face of the complaint."

CSX's complaint said Peirce hid nine fraudulent claims among other lawsuits filed by the law firm in West Virginia.

The complaint noted that radiologist Ray Harron, who was found by a Texas federal judge in 2005 to have created fradulent silica claims, lost his license in 2007. Many of the Peirce firm's diagnoses were made by Harron.

The nine lawsuits were filed and settled from 2000-2006. U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp ruled the four-year statute began when the Peirce firm began targeting CSX.

The Fourth Circuit also ruled Stamp should have allowed CSX to amend its complaint to include 11 other asbestos lawsuits.

Since the Fourth Circuit made its decision, the two sides have argued over whether CSX should be allowed to contact Peirce's former clients.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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