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Weitz & Luxenberg on Thursday accused asbestos industry lawyers of making “baseless” allegations as part of a “scorched earth” campaign against the firm and other prominent players in the asbestos plaintiffs’ bar. Responding to allegations made last month that the New York firm used a New York County Supreme Court clerk to backdate expired claims against the industry, lawyers for the firm filed papers in the Southern District of New York asking Judge Robert W. Sweet to throw out the complaint. Thursday’s motion was the latest salvo in a lawsuit charging that Weitz & Luxenberg; Baron & Budd; and Ness, Motley, Loadholt, Richardson & Poole worked to extort large settlements from G-I Holdings, the successor to New Jersey based GAF Corporation. The firms were also accused by G-I Chairman Samuel Heyman of threatening to sabotage pending settlements with any asbestos maker, or its successor in interest, that lobbied Congress to cap asbestos-related recoveries and attorney’s fees. “We believe Heyman is embarking on a campaign trying to destroy these firms, essentially because he believes that they destroyed him,” said Elkan Abramowitz, of Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason & Silberberg, who is representing Weitz & Luxenberg and partners Perry Weitz and Robert Gordon. “It has become personal and vindictive, and, in the case of their [proposed] third amended complaint, reckless. We are going to fight him tooth and nail.” The first complaint in the lawsuit filed in 2001 charged Baron & Budd with racketeering, and host of other charges that included the drafting of false affidavits. Ness Motley was accused of using “whore docs” — expert witnesses who provided false testimony to support scurrilous asbestos claims. Weitz & Luxenberg lawyers were portrayed as the central players in a “ruthless campaign of personal and corporate litigation” to punish G-I and Mr. Heyman, with the central accusation being that the firm threatened to sabotage settlements that had already been reached unless G-I and its industry allies stopped seeking a federally-imposed cap on claims. In December, Judge Sweet dismissed the bulk of the charges, leaving only a claim for breach of contract against Weitz & Luxenberg, a similar claim against Ness Motley, and a claim against all three firms for “tortious interference with prospective economic advantage.” G-I filed a proposed second amended complaint in January 2002 that sought to replead some claims. It accused Baron & Budd of common law fraud and made more allegations of witness tampering. Then, on March 19, G-I took the conflict to new heights, saying that Weitz & Luxenberg used a Supreme Court clerk, the mother of at least two paralegals who had worked at the firm, of backdating time-barred asbestos claims — an allegation vehemently denied by the firm and the clerk. The proposed third amended complaint also made more allegations against Baron & Budd. The papers filed Thursday by Mr. Abramowitz and lawyers for Baron & Budd argue that Judge Sweet should not allow G-I to amend its complaint in any fashion, citing some of the allegations as essentially restatements of the claims dismissed by the judge in December. FRAUD ACCUSATIONS As to the fraud accusations against Weitz & Luxenberg brought in March, Mr. Abramowitz asked Judge Sweet to dismiss those as well, saying in his papers they were made in “bad faith and for an improper purpose.” Mr. Abramowitz also said in the papers that “G-I’s latest efforts to abuse the litigation process in order to attack and tarnish the asbestos plaintiffs’ bar should not be countenanced,” because the charges were made “in order to slander Weitz & Luxenberg.” G-I made every effort to enlist the media in the slander campaign by calling journalists and making sure they knew about the allegations concerning the Supreme Court clerk, charged Mr. Abramowitz and the two firms representing Baron & Budd — Solomon, Zauderer, Ellenhorn, Frischer & Sharp and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. The parties are expected to appear before Judge Sweet on Wednesday for a hearing on whether to allow the proposed second- and third-amended complaints.

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