What a coincidence! Last week we editorialized about the need for transparency in bankruptcy trusts. This week, one of our lead stories proves our point.
In the editorial, we argued that the lack of transparency in bankruptcy trusts "can facilitate fraud, and cause claimants and attorneys to seek redundant restitution from multiple funds."
Citing legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives mandating greater transparency for such trusts, we noted that opponents insist there's no need for the bill.
Our story this week puts the lie to that claim.
June Montgomery of Broward County, Fla., contracted and subsequently died of mesothelioma. Before her death, she hired a Florida law firm recommended by Beaumont asbestos attorney Brent Coon and filed suit against several companies that make or use asbestos products, to which she claimed to have been exposed through contact with her husband's work clothes.
After her death in 2010, her son Brian, a longtime Broward County Sheriff's Deputy, replaced her as plaintiff.
Unbeknownst to the defendants and the court, however, Brent Coon had made claims against several bankruptcy trusts on behalf of Mrs. Montgomery and her son.
At least one of those claims indicated that June Montgomery had been exposed to asbestos through her own employment.
Though he had received at least three payments from those trusts, it wasn't until trial was set to begin that Brian Montgomery acknowledged the bankruptcy claims being pursued by Coon. Florida law requires prompt disclosure of such information and allows juries to apportion percentages of liability to non-defendants.
The judge was not amused.
"This is really, seriously, egregiously bad behavior," Judge Peggy Ableman remonstrated. "This is misrepresenting. This is trying to defraud."
The suit was subsequently dismissed, but that ought not to be the end of it.
Who besides Brian Montgomery knew about this fraud? The attorneys pursuing his civil suit? Brent Coon?
These questions need to be asked and answered, and all involved should face serious consequences.