BMJ Stone
EZG Manufacturing
Federated Insurance
Fraco USA, Inc.
Hohmann and Barnard, Inc.
Hydro Mobile, Inc.
iQ Power Tools
Kennison Forest Products, Inc.
Mortar Net Solutions
Non-Stop Scaffolding
Pullman Ermator
Tradesmen's Software, Inc.
September 9, 2005 8:24 AM CDT

Texas Silicosis Claims Found to be Fraudulent Now Subject of Federal Grand Jury and Congressional Investigations


Earlier this summer, a Texas Federal Judge, Janis Graham Jack, in a scathing 249 page opinion, publicly excoriated approximately 10,000 silicosis claims brought before her court in a class action lawsuit against some 250 companies. Judge Jack not only condemned the silicosis claims, but she documented the fraudulent means by which the lawyers, doctors and screening companies had manufactured them.

While reviewing the evidence in this case, Judge Jack discovered that of the more than 9,000 plaintiffs who supplied information about their "disease," 99 percent of the claimants had been diagnosed with silicosis by the same 9 doctors. These doctors had been "retained" by law firms or "screening companies" that do mass X-rays on behalf of law firms searching for plaintiffs. The law firm in question in this case is now the subject of a federal grand jury investigation in New York.

According to The Wall Street Journal (which has been providing excellent coverage of this case), when the physicians were deposed, they all but admitted they took their orders from the lawyers and screening firms. Apparently many of the doctors never even saw their "patients." Instead, the doctors signed blank forms for the screening company and let secretaries fill out the diagnoses. It has also been reported that some of the doctors were, magically enough, able to perform 1,239 diagnostic evaluations in 72 hours or less than 4 minutes for each evaluation.

But even more troubling is the fact that more than 65 percent of the silica plaintiffs who filed in this particular case had already been plaintiffs in an asbestos suit. It is a well known fact that it is clinically impossible to contract both asbestosis and silicosis. Yet, some of the physicians associated with these screening companies have received nearly $5 million for their silicosis diagnoses.

Fortunately, Congressman Joe Barton, Chairman of the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce (who happens to be from Texas) and Congressman Ed Whitfield of Kentucky have begun a Congressional investigation into the people and firms responsible for recruiting and {falsely} diagnosing claims of silicosis. Mr. Whitfield, who chairs the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, has been demanding records and information related to the diagnoses and practices of the doctors involved in the Texas lawsuit.

Let us hope that the House investigation can get to the bottom of the silicosis racket before OSHA is allowed to move forward with a federal standard addressing employee exposures. If claims for silicosis are being orchestrated to support studies which may ultimately be used as the basis for a future silica standard, let us hope that this Congressional investigation will help forestall federal regulatory action until we have all the facts before us. It would indeed be tragic to repeat the misfortunes of the asbestos companies and end up with bankruptcies throughout the construction industry because we failed to answer all the right questions.

About the Author

Marian J. Marshall was the Director of Government Affairs for the Mason Contractors Association of America.


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