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A state court in Ohio has ordered the dismissal of all asbestos cases on its docket that rely only on the testimony of two doctors whose credibility came under fire last year in the federal silica multidistrict litigation in Texas. Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas judges Harry A. Hanna, Leo M. Spellacy and Francis A. Sweeney also placed all the cases of as-yet unimpaired claimants-which are not subject to the state’s medical criteria law but do not meet the court’s prescribed medical standards criteria-on an inactive docket. In re All Asbestos Cases, Special Docket No. 073958 (Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, Ct. C.P.). The court disqualified cases based solely on the X-ray diagnoses of Dr. Ray A. Harron of Bridgeport, W.Va., and Dr. James W. Ballard of Birmingham, Ala., noting that Ballard and Harron “are currently unlikely to testify at any hearing or trial of these matters.” David L. Gray of Bunda Stutz & DeWitt in Toledo, Ohio, who represents asbestos defendants in the litigation, said that Harron had invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself in the federal silica multidistrict proceedings before U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack, as well as in a Congressional subcommittee investigating abuses that Jack uncovered, and in a deposition in the W.R. Grace bankruptcy. Same clients, same doctors The orders stem from a series of defense motions arising from abuses identified last summer in the federal silica multidistrict litigation. The defense alleges the abuses also occurred in asbestos litigation, in which many of the same plaintiffs’ law firms employed the same doctors and screening companies, Gray said. The defense also claims-and Jack noted last summer-that plaintiffs’ lawyers have used the same clients in many silica and asbestos cases, diagnosed by the same doctors. Gray estimated that there are about 35,000 total asbestos cases on the Cuyahoga County court docket. Of that total, he said he expects that the court will dismiss roughly 4,000 cases and put about 30,000 cases on an inactive docket, leaving “maybe 1,000 to 2,000″ cases filed by people with true malignancies to be tried. A number of the nonmalignant cases on the inactive docket eventually could be reactivated, but Gray said that he does not expect many of these cases to come back. Thomas W. Bevan of Bevan & Associates of Northfield, Ohio, said that he and the other attorneys in the plaintiffs’ bar had no opposition to the court dismissing cases that relied only on the diagnoses of Ballard and Harron, given the questions of the doctors’ credibility and their unwillingness to testify. The court said that it would reactivate cases for which counsel could get second opinions, said Bevan, adding that of the first 100 cases of his firm’s cases that Harron had seen, a doctor at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic agreed with 99 of Harron’s diagnoses. “We’re confident most of the Harron cases will end up back in court,” said Bevan, who estimated that he has “between 1,000 and 2,000″ cases in the litigation, and that any problems that Harron is alleged to have had occurred after the work he did in the Ohio cases.

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