Thanks to a CEO’s persistence, a federal judge discovers massive lawsuit fraud.
The Wall Street Journal
May 3, 2009
By Kimberely A. Strassel
Berkeley Springs, W. Va.
Officially, John A. Ulizio is the CEO of U.S. Silica, one of the nation’s largest producers of industrial sand. Unofficially, he’s the man who fought the tort bar — and won. It’s a singular distinction in the world of runaway lawsuits.
Clad in a hardhat and boots, standing in a quarry in which giant haul trucks carry Flintstone-sized boulders, the 53-year-old Mr. Ulizio seems an unlikely foe of today’s slick plaintiffs’ bar. The son of a Pennsylvania steel worker, he is blunt-spoken, works in a little-noticed industry, and likes to point out he’s a Democrat (“probably the only one in the building.”) What a cursory observation of Mr. Ulizio misses is his own law degree, and his steely sense of right and wrong.
In 2003 alone — the year he took the company’s top job — U.S. Silica was served with nearly 20,000 lawsuits claiming it had caused silicosis — a serious, if rare, lung disease. The tort bar saw silica as the “new asbestos,” says Mr. Ulizio, and he had visions of his century-old concern going bankrupt, along with dozens of others.