Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas
A lawsuit, at its core, is an exercise in belief. Given few uncontested facts, judges and jurors must hear those facts, listen to the arguments for and against, the witnesses and the experts and decide who or what to believe in.
Lawyers long to be believed by juries and believed in by potential clients. Their paychecks and reputations depend on it.
But it’s hard to believe what is happening in Lancaster, where more than 30 lawsuits ask whether conditions at the Armstrong World Industries plant, once the city’s largest employer, have caused the serious illnesses and deaths of those who worked there.
Sandra Cooper believes they have. She believes her late husband Gene died at 58 because the company did not believe in worker safety.
Unfortunately, she believes in her lawyer, too. The cases have dragged on for years, with a trial nowhere in sight.
In September, the judge overseeing these lawsuits threw Ms. Cooper’s lawyer, George Chada, off the cases. What he has done while litigating these claims has been “incompetent” and “dishonest,” the judge ruled.
For instance, Mr. Chada has claimed a defendant violated a stay – even though no stay existed. He’s repeatedly filed amended complaints without permission and ignored court instructions, according to the record.
He even claimed one defendant manufactured the dangerous solvent at issue while, in the same documents, writing that the product was a creation of another’s research team.
His conduct was described by Judge Leonard Brown as a “mockery of the law.” But the real mockery may be his exploitation of his clients’ beliefs.
When he was sanctioned more than $120,000 for his behavior, he had Ms. Cooper pay the bond that was needed for his appeal – more than $150,000.
Ms. Cooper still supports her lawyer. She says she was never coerced into making the payment. We believe her.
But we wonder about the logic of a lawyer taking money from a client, a widow who has waited 10 years for her day in court, to cover his mistakes.