Judge Jack: A Judge for Our Time…..

By October 10, 2005Briefly Legal

Tort WarsTo follow on to yesterday’s posting on the topic:

Excellent article on the front page of the New York Times Business section yesterday. Entitled, “The Tort Wars, at a Turning Point“, by Jonathan Glater, it talks about US District Court Judge Janis Graham Jack — on whom the Wall Street Journal has editorialized and rhapsodized on several occasions. A Clinton appointee, she has rocked the boat by taking a harsh stand against the legal Bermuda Triangle of trial lawyers, doctors and testing companies.

Having seen 10,000 silica claims moved to her courtroom (from Mississippi, of course), she began a process of sifting through to see which ones were, well, legitimate. As it turns out, almost half the silicosis claimants in her courtroom had also filed asbestosis claims with the Johns Manville Trust. As the Times notes, “Although not impossible, it is highly unlikely” that someone could be diagnosed with both. One doctor alone, a Dr. Ray A. Harron, diagnosed 53,734 cases of asbestosis. He also diagnosed almost 90% of the silicosis cases. What a coincidence. Said Judge Jack in a 249-page opinion last June, “It is apparent that truth and justice had very little to do with these diagnoses”, noting that “[L]awyers, doctors and screening companies” were “willing participants” in the scam.

In any event, asbestosis and silicosis are real, and people who suffer from it are very sick and deserve compensation. Problem is, with unscrupulous trial lawyers working with unscrupulous doctors and testing companies to push healthy people to file claims — and recover — the sick often end up collecting nothing.

If you’re looking for what needs to be fixes with the legal system, this story lays it out pretty well. Bravo to Judge Jack for pushing back against a system that in some fundamental respects has wandered far from the pursuit of justice.