Texas judge takes dim view of mass screenings

Steve Gonzalez Oct. 5, 2005, 11:34am

Judge Janis Graham Jack

In February, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack of Texas characterized thousands of lawsuits filed by people claiming illness from asbestos and silica exposure as raising "great red flags of fraud."

She took aim at a Mississippi asbestos and silicosis screening firm "N&M," which operated without medical oversight, and generated diagnoses for thousands of litigants.

"To place this accomplishment in perspective," Judge Janis wrote, "in just over two years, N&M found 400 times more silicosis cases than the Mayo Clinic (which sees 250,000 patients a year) treated during the same period.

"Furthermore, when comparing the names of the approximately 6,757 N&M-generated MDL (Multi-District Litigation) Plaintiffs with the names in the Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust (a trust established for asbestos claims after the Johns-Manville Corporation bankruptcy), at least 4,031 N&M- generated Plaintiffs have also made asbestosis claims.

"The magnitude of this feat becomes evident when one considers that many pulmonologists, pathologists and B readers go their entire careers without encountering a single patient with both silicosis and asbestosis.

"Stated differently, a golfer is more likely to hit a hole-in-one than an occupational medicine specialist is to find a single case of both silicosis and asbestosis.

"N&M parked a van in some parking lots and found over 4,000 such cases."

On Sept. 27 and 28, Beaumont, Texas-based litigators Brent Coon & Associates filed 139 asbestos and 33 silicosis lawsuits in Madison County.

Some of the Chicago-area plaintiffs contacted by phone indicated that they were diagnosed in a mobile screening van set up a union hall.

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