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Using RICO to Punish, Deter Plaintiffs’ Lawyer-Driven Fraud on Our Courts

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this morning published American Tort Reform Association president Tiger Joyce’s op-ed, holding up the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act as a means to discourage plaintiffs’ lawyers from promulgating fraudulent lawsuits.

Citing as examples both CSX Transportation’s successful RICO claim against the two Pittsburgh lawyers a federal jury found liable for fraudulent asbestos litigation last December and Chevron’s claim against personal injury lawyer Steven Donziger, now being tried in Manhattan, Joyce suggests that if bar associations, state attorneys general and the Department of Justice won’t aggressively police fraud on our courts, then courageous companies with sufficient wherewithal may increasingly resort to table-turning RICO lawsuits of their own to punish and deter such fraud.

“Admittedly, two headline-grabbing RICO lawsuits by private-sector employers against personal injury lawyers, clients and witnesses accused of lying and cheating do not exactly constitute a robust new trend,” writes Joyce. “And it’s a sad commentary that fraud victims seeking justice have to turn to a statute designed to combat organized crime.

“But if bar associations, government prosecutors and key policy makers who are beholden to plaintiffs’ bar campaign contributions won’t act to investigate and punish the obvious corruption and fraud in our civil courts, then companies with the means to do so must begin making examples of at least a few of the many perpetrators. Only when fraudsters face significant risk and multimillion-dollar consequences for their actions will their costly abuse of our civil justice system diminish.”

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