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Recht’s Rules

West Virginia Circuit Court Judge Arthur Recht, a former state Supreme Court of Appeals justice now serving as an Ohio County trial judge, is to be commended for steps he has taken to safeguard the integrity of asbestos claims filed in his court.

In a hearing this year, Judge Recht reflected on the “bizarre” events he has seen in the litigation, from the forged signature of a doctor who did not exist to “a doctor who has an imagination beyond description in reading certain X-rays.” Judge Recht has required individuals who file asbestos claims to see a pulmonologist, rather than radiologists with a history of supplying questionable evidence in such cases. Pulmonologists who examine plaintiffs must testify as experts at trial. Plaintiffs must also submit a signed statement that he or she is aware of the lawsuit and believes the claim is well founded (this precaution grew out of evidence that a prominent law firm specializing in West Virginia asbestos claims purported to represent clients who did not know lawsuits had been filed on their behalf).

Judge Recht also requires plaintiffs to provide the defendants with their medical records and a history of other asbestos exposure claims they have pursued. And Judge Recht had earlier rejected “expert” testimony offered to prove that railroad workers exposed to a solvent could experience brain changes when it was learned the experts had failed to disclose their pay arrangement with plaintiffs’ lawyers and the fact that said lawyers had referred their clients to the experts as research subjects.