Center for America

Speaker's Resource: 5. Plaintiffs Bar, p 4



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Key Reference Citations (KRC)


Litigation Tactics or Dirty Tricks?

  • Former U.S. Attorney General Thornburgh (right) explains:

    • “The plaintiffs’ lawyers . . . had turned America’s tort system into a business. The formula was easy: Publicly threaten a lawsuit to put downward pressure on a company’s stock price, then use the legal system to coerce the beleaguered corporation into a large settlement. The pattern brought a windfall, and unburdened by lengthy court battles, the plaintiffs’ attorneys could execute a quick turnaround ... The game became so established that the Association of Trial Lawyers of America now offers courses in how to sue particular companies.” (KRC: Hantler, "Seven Myths", p. 23, as quoting Dick Thornburgh, "Just Say No to Tort Blackmail", Wall Street Journal, Jan. 21, 2002, p. A12)

  • Following their success in the tobacco litigation, plaintiffs’ counsel began targeting whole industries: Dickie Scruggs, chief architect of the tobacco settlement, lead the charge against the healthcare industry filing suit against one managed care company causing it to lose $12 billion of shareholder value in a single day. Scruggs told the analysts that he would run the companies out of business unless they met his demands. Despite his threats, he denied complaints from his targets that his tactics amounted to legal extortion.  (KRC: Olson, The Rule of Lawyers, p. 81 and 82)

  • “Increasingly, mass tort litigation was following a fully entrepreneurial model: Big law firms would identify an industry they wanted to sue, and then find and sign up the right clients to do so….To find likely cases, some lawyers comb through mass-market commercial agreements in search of slipups in the fine print, often highly technical. Others piggyback on government enforcement actions.”  (KRC: Olson, The Rule of Lawyers, p. 85 and 86)

  • Fear of runaway-size verdicts is one reason even a long-shot suit is apt to be bought off with a settlement if a judge has consented to certify it as a class action. (Scruggs, for one, has boasted that his favored strategy to force a settlement is to ‘[r]aise the stakes so high that neither side can afford to lose.’” (KRC: Olson, The Rule of Lawyers, p. 87)


Playing Fast and Loose With "Facts"


"Lawsuit Industry Updates" email transmitted August 1, 2005


Several years ago, the plaintiffs bar began to file thousands of lawsuits on behalf of plaintiffs who were allegedly suffering from silicosis, a lung disease brought about by exposure to silica, a substance touted by the plaintiffs bar as the “new asbestos”.  After a radiologist, who had been retained and paid by the trial bar, acknowledged that he should not have signed his name to thousands of silicosis diagnoses, Texas District Court Judge Janis Jack ordered hearings to determine whether false diagnoses had been used in the mass silicosis case before her. The findings were startling:

  • A Texas doctor admitted "he diagnosed more than 800 patients during a 72-hour period ...  spend[ing] no more than a few minutes reviewing X-rays and writing a report for each patient."

  •  A Mississippi doctor revealed his equipment - owned by a Century 21 real estate agent - and his office - a van in a Sizzler restaurant parking lot.

  •  Another doctor admitted he never interviewed, examined, or checked the work records of some 2,700 claimants - people who received diagnoses letters stamped with his signature. Oh, and many of them were people the same doctor had earlier diagnosed with asbestosis.

  • The head of the screening company that "diagnosed" 6,500 plaintiffs was a junior college dropout that taught himself how to run an X-ray machine and take medical histories.

Doctors were withdrawing their diagnoses or denying that the letters with signatures on them were theirs. A physician who helped develop the international standards for diagnosing silicosis said the diagnoses were “stunning and not scientifically plausible”.


An angry Judge Jack said she saw “great red flags of fraud” and scheduled a sanctions hearing where she took the lawyers to task. Calling all of the evidence inherently unreliable, she said "It is apparent that truth and justice had very little to do with these diagnoses. [T]hey were manufactured for money. [T]he clear motivation... was to inflate the number of plaintiffs and overwhelm the defendants and the judicial system. This is apparently done in hopes of extracting mass nuisance-value settlements..."


Although the judge’s sanctions were limited because she lacked jurisdiction over most of the claims, a federal grand jury was convened last month to investigate some of the most prominent attorneys involved in the silicosis litigation.



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