MCCOMB — The Mississippi Supreme Court has appointed a tribunal to hear the state Bar’s complaint against two McComb attorneys who were accused of fraud in an asbestos case.
Lawyers William Guy and Thomas Brock asked the Supreme Court to appoint a tribunal to hear the case. The request was granted this past week.
The Mississippi Bar asked the Supreme Court to suspend the two after they were cited by a federal jury in Jackson in 2010 in a civil fraud case. The jury found the two committed fraud during an asbestos lawsuit they filed in 2001 and should pay Illinois Central Railroad Company $420,000 in damages, according to court records.
Guy and Brock, in Supreme Court documents, said they were appealing the civil judgment to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. They said the Bar should wait until the appeals run their course or they deserved a chance to explain their side to a tribunal.
The Supreme Court this past week named Circuit Judge Winston Kidd of Hinds County as presiding judge of the tribunal. The tribunal will report its findings to the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. said in the order.
In the civil case, Illinois Central claimed Guy and Brock knew their clients lied about their involvement in an earlier landmark asbestos case when they were questioned during the railroad lawsuit.
The jury awarded Illinois Central actual and punitive damages, finding the lawyers responsible for the fraud.
Guy and Brock claimed during trial that they didn’t know their clients had been plaintiffs in the earlier asbestos litigation — Cosey v. E.D. Bullard — one of several lawsuits with huge verdicts in the 1990s that led to calls for tort reform in Mississippi.
Illinois Central said it would not have settled with two former employees — Warren Turner Jr. for $120,000 in 2002 and Willie Harried for $90,000 in 2003 — if the company had known they had already been involved in the other asbestos lawsuit.
The case was a mass litigation filed in 1995 in Jefferson County that grew to represent hundreds of people from around the country who claimed asbestos made them sick. Twelve of the plaintiffs went to trial and were awarded $48.5 million. Companies soon agreed to settlements with other plaintiffs out fear of being hit with another big verdict.
Harried and Turner have both testified that they each received several hundred thousand dollars in the Cosey case, Illinois Central said.
Illinois Central sued Harried in 2006 and Turner in 2007 in U.S. District Court in Natchez, accusing both men of lying in sworn statements about the previous lawsuit. The company eventually accused the lawyers of knowing about the deception and the two lawsuits were consolidated.
Source: Associated Press