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Justice Dept Asked to Probe Doctors, Lawyers in Asbestos Cases
By Susan Jones Morning Editor
April 11, 2005

- The United States Chamber of Commerce is asking the Justice Department to investigate "considerable new evidence of fraud" in asbestos and silica litigation.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donohue asked the Justice Department to open a "formal investigation into the conduct of lawyers, doctors and others who are responsible for the explosion in meritless and abusive asbestos claims across the country in recent years."

The Chamber points to recent testimony in a Texas federal court regarding silica litigation, where several diagnosing doctors openly disclaimed their prior findings.

Last month, those doctors testified that they had diagnosed silicosis, a respiratory disease, in patients they never met, the New York Times reported. Some of those same doctors also diagnosed asbestosis in other patients -- casting doubt on those cases as well.

Donohue also cited a recent independent study of asbestos claims by researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The independent researchers reviewed 492 chest X-rays and found abnormalities in only 4.5 percent of them. But medical experts testifying on behalf of plaintiffs in asbestos cases found abnormalities in about 90 percent of those same X-rays.

"This and other evidence of fraud in asbestos litigation is an issue of national importance because the litigation has already involved the payment of more than $70 billion in judgments or settlements and driven more than 70 companies into bankruptcy," the Chamber said in a press release.

"We have never had such strong evidence of rampant fraud driving the asbestos litigation," Donohue said. "It's time for the Justice Department to get to the bottom of it."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce describes itself as the world's largest business federation, representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector and region.