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Lawyers appeal fraud verdict in asbestos lawsuit

HOUSTON, Texas — Two Mississippi plaintiffs lawyers, including a former state lawmaker, have appealed a verdict that they committed fraud during an asbestos lawsuit they filed in 2001.

A federal jury in Mississippi decided in 2010 that the lawyers should pay Illinois Central Railroad Company $420,000 in damages.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled oral arguments in the case for March 6 at the University of Houston Law Center in Houston, Texas.

Illinois Central claimed McComb attorneys William Guy and Thomas Brock knew their clients lied about their involvement in an earlier landmark asbestos case when they were questioned during the railroad lawsuit.

Guy is a well-known attorney who served two terms as a state representative in the late 1960s and 1970s before moving to the Senate for one term. He ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor as a Democrat in 1995.

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.

The railroad argued that Harried and Turner had both testified that they each received several hundred thousand dollars in the Cosey case.

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