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Former Nurse Stops Shysters

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By Gus Van Horn, cross-posted from the Gus Van Horn blog



Over at Jewish World Review, the Medicine Men reminded me that a story that has been developing over the past couple of years in Houston is making the rounds again. They summarize what a former nurse-turned-Federal Judge in Corpus Christi found when more than 10,000 silicosis cases from Mississippi ended up in her court.

Judge [Janis Graham] Jack, a former nurse, couldn't understand how a disease that caused fewer than 200 deaths annually in the entire United States could have resulted in 20,000 claims in Mississippi and surrounding states.




The diagnosis of silicosis was made in 99% of more than 9,000 plaintiffs by the same nine doctors. One admitted that he didn't even know the criteria for diagnosing the disease, but had simply included a paragraph supplied by the screening company in each of his reports. One doctor had his secretary fill out patient diagnoses on blank forms, while another analyzed 1,239 patients in 72 hours.




The judge also found that more than 65% of the silica plaintiffs had also been plaintiffs in a previous asbestos suit, with the diagnoses made by the same doctors. She stated that statistics alone should have shown the lawyers that their case defied "all medical knowledge and logic," and that by bringing the suit they had shown a "reckless disregard of the duty owed the court."

Not that you would necessarily have had to be a nurse to become a little suspicious of the above....


One news story detailed the litigation factory that had been cynically assembled:

How were so many "victims" found so quickly? The answer lies not in luck or previous medical oversight but in a well-oiled litigation machine run by an aggressive band of entrepreneurial lawyers. Operating in the shadows of the civil justice system, the machine's sole purpose is to turn people like Carl Thomas into case numbers.




Like the best machines, the marvel of this one is its simplicity. The law firm hires a medical screening company. The screening company hires a doctor. The two go to work, one bringing people through the front door, the other stamping them as sick. At the end of the day, a clerk at a law firm fills in a few blanks, punches a button and produces a lawsuit.




It's the job of the screening company to connect with workers. It owns a mobile van, maybe several, that shows up in parking lots to conduct X-ray sessions. By the time the van arrives, thousands of potential claimants have been reached by direct mail, fliers put up in union halls and ads placed in hundreds of small-town newspapers and occasionally on television.




The X-rays are done at no cost, with the understanding that the results are given to lawyers for the purpose of litigation. The screening company receives a set fee per person tested, as does the doctor who receives the X-rays along with a brief work history of the potential client.




The goal is volume. In May 2003, Lloyd Criss, owner of defunct screening company Gulf Coast Marketing in La Marque, sent a promotional letter to lawyers that emphasized one thing.




"

Our marketing efforts have brought thousands of new cases to plaintiff law firms

," the letter stated. "Prior to the year 2000, Lloyd Criss was employed by the Foster and Sear law firm, and in a one-year period approximately 7,000 new cases were added to that firm's inventory." [bold added]



To the corporations whose pockets were about to be rifled, the enormous number of cases looked like "asbestos all over again". Is it any wonder that Judge Jack took the unusual step of one law firm in Houston, or that she wrote the following blistering rebuke as part of her 249-page decision?

This small cadre of nontreating physicians, financially beholden to lawyers and screening companies rather than to patients, managed to notice a disease missed by approximately 8,000 other physicians -- most of whom had the significant advantage of speaking to, examining and treating the plaintiffs ... In the majority of cases, these diagnoses are more the creation of lawyers than doctors. Conversely, virtually all of the ... diagnosing doctors seemed to be under the impression they were practicing law rather than medicine.

We could use a few more Judges like Janis Jack on the bench!


-- CAV


http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000869.html
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