- Associated Press - Monday, October 27, 2014

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - A federal appeals court is set to hear arguments about whether lawyers committed racketeering when they sued CSX on behalf of its employees.

Between 2000 and 2008, three Pittsburgh lawyers filed asbestos claims on behalf of thousands of CSX workers all over the country. With the help of West Virginia radiologist Ray Harron, lawyers Robert N. Pierce, Jr., Louis A. Raimond and Mark T. Coulter alleged that the CSX workers scarred their lungs while breathing harmful asbestos on the job.

But in 2005, federal judge Janis Graham Jack in Texas uncovered fraudulent diagnoses. Many were from Harron, who had become known as the nation’s most prominent expert witness in asbestos cases. Harron took part in as many as 88,000 claims. Some were duplicates, the judge discovered, filed by plaintiffs who previously made asbestos claims. “These diagnoses were driven by neither health nor justice - they were manufactured for money,” Jack wrote in a 249-page opinion. “In the majority of cases, these diagnoses are more the creation of lawyers than doctors.”

In response, Jacksonville, Florida-based CSX filed a counter claim in West Virginia federal court in 2005. The company argued that nine of the lawyers’ West Virginia lawsuits were fraudulent, based on Harron’s dubious diagnoses. The company said the lawyers committed racketeering when they colluded with a radiologist to inundate CSX with lawsuits.

In 2013, after years of legal wrangling, a Wheeling district judge sided with CSX. The company was awarded $1.3 million in damages.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments Tuesday over whether the Wheeling court made the right decision.

Filed on behalf of the three lawyers, Harron, and former CSX employees, the appeal questions the Wheeling district court’s judgment and requests a new trial.

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