For years, Robert Peirce & Associates brought thousands of asbestos claims against CSX Transportation, Inc. Then, CSX turned the tables. Beginning in 2005, CSX alleged nine of the lawsuits brought against it were fraudulent. In 2009, summary judgment was granted in Peirce’s favor, but that ruling was overturned by the Fourth Circuit. Last December, a federal jury in Wheeling, West Virginia, found Robert Peirce and Louis Raimond liable for racketeering and conspiring with radiologist Ray Harron to fabricate evidence. The jury rendered a verdict against the two lawyers and the radiologist of $429,240.47. Judge Frederick P. Stamp, Jr. recently tripled the award to about $1.3 million, finding CSX was entitled to treble damages under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The attorneys have filed an appeal of the amended judgment. Judge Stamp has yet to rule on CSX’s motion seeking attorneys’ fees of over $10 million, and will not issue a decision on that until after appeals are exhausted.
Attorneys have an ethical obligation not to present false evidence. See, Rule of Professional Conduct 3.3(a)(1) (“A lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of material fact or law to a tribunal or fail to correct a false statement of material fact or law previously made to the tribunal by the lawyer.”). Harron denies wrongdoing, but Texas federal court judge Janis Jack found he falsefied X-ray reports, and he lost his license in seven states. An attorney utilizing evidence of questionable authenticity may well face problems down the road. Professional liability avoidance best practices includes assessing the credibility of evidence presented. There can be legitimate reasons for presenting questionable evidence, it may be the best evidence available, or a client may insist it be presented. However, a risk/benefit analysis should be performed before any evidence which may be questionable is presented.