Contrary to popular conception, not all lawyers and doctors are fabulously wealthy. Most earn a decent living; however, medical professionals are often deeply in debt because of education bills and, for those in private practice, the cost of medical equipment. In addition, doctors are as much victims as their patients when it comes to the oftentimes predatory, for-profit health insurance and pharmaceutical corporations. In the case of lawyers, some actually struggle, earning not much more than what was once a middle-class income in the U.S., especially those lawyers who don’t align themselves with big corporations. It’s important to understand this so you can appreciate the temptation of the big money to be made in asbestos litigation.
Unethical lawyers and physicians, many of whom are strapped for cash, may place “Million Dollar Lungs” ads in local newspapers, luring concerned people to “mass screenings”, which are held in trailers parked at shopping malls, union halls or hotel suites. It gets worse when lawyers start playing doctor, and vice-versa. Judge Janis Graham Jack of Corpus Christi, Texas, had had enough. In 2005 after exposing 10,000 fraudulent cases, Judge Jack issued a “flaming 249-page [court] order” barring physicians from testifying in silicosis cases. Unfortunately, as happens in such “purges,” some wheat invariably gets thrown out with the chaff. Judge Jack retained 100 of the cases, in which about half of the suits were dropped by plaintiff counsel. The other 99% were remanded to courts outside of Texas, and those courts are not cooperating. As a result, there is a huge legal tangle that two years later is still being unraveled. Unfortunately, many legitimate asbestos cases depend on expert testimony from physicians. The doctors involved in fraud have made it that much more difficult for honest medical professionals called upon to testify in such cases. According to John Wylie, author of a Reader’s Digest article entitled “Forty Billion Dollar Scam,” defense attorneys all over the U.S. are still trying to weed out cases that depend on diagnoses made by the “phony doctors” Judge Jack exposed in 2005.