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Stephen Harburg, partner in the Washington office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and attorney for several current and former welding consumable manufacturers, today announced that the Court overseeing the federal multidistrict litigation (“MDL”) in Cleveland, Ohio, has dismissed the Ray case, which was slated to be tried in the MDL court this month. Plaintiffs were forced to move to dismiss the Ray case after plaintiff’s claims of severe disability were refuted by Internet photos discovered by defendants that showed plaintiff competing in high-speed powerboat races. In addition, discovery revealed numerous other discrepancies between Mr. Ray’s sworn testimony and the factual record.

“This latest development is more disturbing than it is surprising”

“This latest development is more disturbing than it is surprising,” stated Mr. Harburg. “Over the past four years, a pattern of fraudulent and meritless claims has defined this litigation, culminating most recently with the Ray case. This is the sixth trial-ready case plaintiffs have been forced to dismiss due to fraud uncovered by the defendants.”

In 2006, after defendants discovered fraud in the Morgan case -- one of the plaintiffs’ first handpicked MDL trial candidates -- the Court implemented a new case evaluation process to ensure that only “trial-worthy” cases were brought to the later stages of litigation. This process, which required medical records collection and a certification by plaintiffs’ attorneys that cases were trial-worthy, prompted plaintiffs to dismiss thousands of cases. And in June 2009, after defendants raised questions about the cases plaintiffs were certifying under this procedure, plaintiffs dismissed 29 of the 43 cases they had selected as trial-worthy.

Mr. Harburg continued, “While the Ray case had no merit and should never have been brought before the Court in the first place, we find it deeply troubling that it was able to make it to such an advanced stage of trial preparation. The fraud was ‘caught’ not by plaintiff's counsel, who had certified the case, but by defendants, and occurred months after the extensive re-review and decertification of previously certified cases which occurred in June of last year.

“The fact remains that over the last several years, thousands of plaintiffs have abandoned their claims. The total number of welding fume claims has dropped by over 80 percent, and there are 85 percent fewer cases in the MDL. The defendants are confident they will ultimately prevail in these cases, and will continue to try those cases not dismissed on other grounds. Ensuring the health and safety of welders has always been a top priority of the defendants and they have been unfairly targeted in these baseless lawsuits.”

For additional information about this litigation, please go to www.weldinginfonetwork.com.

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