The loud process in a series of “asbestos” lawsuits is coming to the end
The court denied the former speaker of the New York Assembly, Sheldon Silver, a stay of his previous prison sentence. The 76-year-old official will serve six and a half years in prison. This was reported by the Courthouse News Service.
The official is accused of taking a bribe on a particularly large scale. By 2015, when he was charged with taking $5 million in bribes through front offices at two law firms, Silver had worked as a state legislator for 21 years before reaching a record New York City term.
According to the statement of the Federal prosecutor’s office of the USA, the speaker from the Democratic party since the end of 2002 abused his official position, allocating state funds to Robert Taub, the researcher from the Columbia university who directed the patients with mesothelioma to Weitz & Luxenberg – the law firm specializing on “asbestos claims”. Weitz & Luxenberg, in turn, paid Silver, who held a formal position at the firm, more than $3 million as a reward for his clients.
When the official was caught, he began fighting the judicial system. In 2016 the court sentenced Silver to 12 years in prison, but this verdict was overturned due to a Supreme Court precedent that weakened the application of the federal anti-bribery law. As a result of a retrial by the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York in 2018, the disgraced politician was convicted again, this time being sentenced to seven years in prison. In 2020, District Judge Valerie Caproni said during the trial: “It’s time for Mr. Silver to pay the bills.
Probably, this story will be brought to a logical conclusion, despite the obvious vulnerabilities of the U.S. judicial system. “Asbestos lawsuits in general are difficult, and especially over the ocean – Mr. Silver, like many other crooks who have found themselves in the dock over the past decades, are actively defending themselves from justice. But why so effectively? The fact is that “asbestos hysteria” is actively exploited by the legal community, which derives significant benefits from the imperfections and contradictions of overseas legislation.
At present in the USA asbestos use is limited. Use of amphibole asbestos in America is forbidden, and chrysotile can be applied only in a very narrow segment of the industry. So it has happened because of a mass campaign on blackening of “mountain flax” (so name asbestos) which application connected with a number of serious diseases.
Actually diseases cause only amphibole asbestos as in its chemical formula iron is present. Thanks to it amphiboles are steady against acids and are not deduced from a human body that, in turn, can provoke oncology. Chrysotile asbestos does not contain iron, so at hitting in lungs it is completely dissolved by alveolar macrophages for the period on the average from two to seven hours.
There is an extensive set of studies that confirm these facts – from the latest work we can mention an article in the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology describing a 90-day experiment on rats. Animals were breathing chrysotile dust resulting from brake pad treatment. No pathological changes were found in the rats.
However, during the explosion of interest in asbestos differences between its species in publications and speeches did not do, as well as many other circumstances of disease in people. Moreover, activists, politicians and journalists have gone to “a crusade” all over the world, telling about harm of asbestos. So manufacture of chrysotile in Canada and Brazil has closed, there was and there is a pressure on other countries of South America and Asia.
In the USA on a wave of public indignation (and many mass-media and activists have soon joined lawyers), hundreds enterprises have ruined and have been transformed to trust funds which should pay out compensations to the people “injured” from contacts to asbestos. There were many lawyers, lawyers and doctors on their board.
For example, in 2014, during the bankruptcy of Garlock Sealing Technologies, lawyers received a huge number of lawsuits totaling $1.3 billion. During the audit, it turned out that many plaintiffs forged documents, as well as filed applications to several funds simultaneously.
As Forbes Magazine writes, counterfeiting for asbestos cases is not a unique case – in 2007 alone, lawyers Robert Pierce and Louis Raymond, together with physician Ray Harron, forged hundreds of X-rays for “asbestos cases”, using them to sue millions of dollars.
These processes are also facilitated by the very form of judicial organization in the United States. The precedent law underlying it gives wide opportunities both for escape from responsibility, and for machinations – it is enough to dig up (or to create, having bribed the judge) the necessary precedent which has accumulated more than one dozen during decades of “asbestos hysteria”.
It is no accident that Trump’s administration decided to take a closer look at the work of “asbestos funds”. In 2018 their quantity made about 60 with cumulative cost $60 billion. By the way, there is one trick. The interest of lawyers has a material basis – the share of remuneration in “asbestos” claims is up to 70 cents from each dollar.
But not only lawyers and doctors benefit from “asbestos hysteria”. Three years ago in New York the Brooklyn expert on asbestos Alexander Kogan for a compensation within the limits from $1,5 thousand to $3 thousand made fake conclusions on presence or absence of “a mountain flax” in buildings that allowed illegally to demolish buildings or, on the contrary, to leave emergency habitation inviolable.
In one only New York “asbestos affairs” have turned to the real epidemic. “The average sum of compensation on cases about asbestos in New York – $16 million on one claimant during the period from 2010 to 2014 – at least twice more in comparison with other courts across the country, according to the data received by Bates White Economic Consulting”, – writes The New York Post.
Today, most defendants in “asbestos” cases are separated in the worst case by fines. Professional lawyers and officials feel in a courtroom as a fish in water, and at the account of set of errors of the public about asbestos, their criminal schemes often descend to them from hands. Sheldon Silver’s trial is no exception: whether it is a joke or not that a corrupt official, caught by the hand on bribes, manages to escape legally from prison for 5 years. All that remains is to hope that justice will be served in this case.