At long last, there's good news in the fight against "jackpot justice" tort claims and the nefarious law firms that file them. In courts and legislatures across the country, fraudulent lawsuits are being exposed, and the abusive tort lawyers that file them are finally getting a taste of their own medicine. Most notable is the recent indictment of Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman, the nation's most notorious class-action law firm. For four decades, Milberg Weiss has filed hundreds of dubious class-action lawsuits and wrung billions of dollars from terrified companies.
Now, a federal grand jury in Los Angeles has indicted Milberg Weiss and individual partners on multiple counts of conspiracy, racketeering, obstruction of justice, mail fraud, money laundering and filing false tax returns. For over twenty years, according to the U.S. Attorney, the firm brazenly paid kickbacks to repeat plaintiffs in order to serve as lead counsel in class-action lawsuits. Worse, according to prosecutors, the firm continued to do so while aware that it was under investigation.
Long-known for overzealously employing "professional plaintiffs" to extort settlements and jury awards from companies (for example, individual defendant Seymour Lazar served as plaintiff in no fewer than seventy lawsuits), Milberg Weiss stands accused of the very type of misconduct that it wantonly alleged against companies and even entire industries. An even greater irony is that Milberg Weiss faces the same "death sentence" suffered by companies like Arthur Andersen, one of its frequent past targets.
Those of us who have witnessed Milberg Weiss's abusive tactics through the years can be forgiven for taking delight in seeing the chickens finally coming home to roost. As former Milberg Weiss mastermind Bill Lerach once said, "the whole industry was a fraud," and, "so much fraud, so little time." In the case of abusive class-action law firms like Milberg Weiss, we couldn't agree more.
In similar fashion, rail company and frequent asbestos-lawsuit target CSX has turned the tables against the law firm of Peirce, Raimond & Coulter, which had filed literally thousands of asbestos claims against CSX and other companies. CSX discovered that plaintiffs in one of Peirce's lawsuits fraudulently substituted each other's x-rays in order to duplicate advantageous diagnoses. Accordingly, CSX sued the employees, who confessed and testified that they asked Peirce attorneys to dismiss the lawsuit, but that Peirce nevertheless proceeded with the case. On that basis, CSX sued the Peirce firm for fraud, misrepresentation, and negligence, the very types of claims that Peirce had alleged in thousands of lawsuits. CSX further claims that Peirce maintained the x-rays and knew about the false diagnoses, and that it repeatedly retained a physician whom a federal court accused of manufacturing false silicosis diagnoses.
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