By: Lowell Newmann Nickey
PHILADELPHIA (CN) – Describing a far-reaching conspiracy in asbestos litigation, an Illinois manufacturer brought a federal complaint against a Pennsylvania law firm that brags about the number of multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements it has won for mesothelioma clients.
Shein Law Center and its principal, Benjamin Shein, are described in the May 15 complaint as having focused on asbestos cases since the firm’s founding in 1994, representing 15 to 20 personal-injury plaintiffs a year.
Shein has not returned a request for comment about the federal complaint filed against him in Philadelphia by one of his former court adversaries, John Crane Inc.
A manufacturer of industrial-sealing and packing products, JCI says Shein and his firm “fabricated false asbestos ‘exposure histories’ for their clients in asbestos litigation … and systematically concealed evidence of their clients’ exposure to other sources of asbestos.”
The crux of the case lies in the difference between the type of chrysotile asbestos contained in JCI’s products and the thermal-insulation variety that JCI says is “much more dangerous.”
During asbestos litigation with JCI, according to the complaint, Shein falsely denied that his clients had been exposed to the dangerous variety (“highly friable, amphibole asbestos”).
As soon as their litigation was complete, however, JCI’s 59-page complaint says Shein filed claims with bankruptcy trusts that had been set up for the “claimed exposures that were explicitly denied and fraudulently concealed in the litigation against JCI.”
The scheme came to light, JCI says, when Shein brought an adversary proceeding against the North Carolina bankruptcy proceedings of a manufacturer called Garlock Sealing Technologies.
JCI says it was the victim of the same conspiracy that a federal judge in Charlotte “has characterized as a ‘startling pattern of misrepresentation.’”
“Shein has admitted that his practice of delaying the filing of trust claims is specifically intended to prevent nonbankrupt companies from arguing in tort litigation that bankrupt companies were responsible for the plaintiff’s disease,” the complaint states.
JCI calls it critical to Shein’s conspiracy that he delay the filing of trust claims until after the completion of tort litigation against it and other nonbankrupt defendants.
“As part of fabricating an exposure history, this delay was specifically intended to create the false appearance — to JCI, other nonbankrupt defendants, the court, and the jury — that plaintiffs had only been exposed to asbestos-containing products for which nonbankrupt companies were responsible,” the complaint states. “In reality, as the defendants well knew, such plaintiffs had been exposed to numerous asbestos-containing products for which bankrupt companies were responsible.”
JCI’s complaint quotes allegations from the Garlock case that Shein needed to disappear evidence.
“In other words, the defendants sought to fabricate fraudulent client exposure histories devoid not only of trust claims, but also of any evidence of exposure to products associated with bankrupt companies, especially thermal insulation companies whose products contained friable and ‘more potent’ asbestos,” the complaint states.
JCI seeks punitive damages and an injunction, alleging conspiracy, fraud and violations of federal anti-racketeering law.
The manufacturer is represented by Leonard Marsico of the Pittsburgh firm McGuireWoods.
Marsico has not return a phone call requesting comment.