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the tunnel contractors. Shortly thereafter that situation had developed, and I was employed by several of the employees of Rinehart & Dennis to institute proper action against Rinehart & Dennis for recovery on account of injuries. Those suits were instituted, and I represented about 96 of the claimants. There were approximately 400 suits instituted then or subsequent thereto.
One trial was had. That trial lasted 10 weeks, as I remember.
The information that we got from several of the jurors was that 10 of them had agreed to give the plaintiff in that first case $25,000. Two of the jurors refused to give anything; they refused to consider or discuss the case. Therefore the jury was, of course, discharged from further study of the case. One of those two jurors whose names I do not recall was fined for contempt of court by Judge Erie, because of a reported familiarity or for being allegedly familiar with some of the defendant's employees.
The second case was tried, and at that time 11 of the jurors, according to information received, voted $25,000, and one juror refused to give anything.
In May or June 1933 I was called to Fayetteville, where these cases were tried, and told that a settlement had been reached. I asked the terms of the settlement and was advised that Rinehart & Dennis agreed to pay $130,000 in settlement of all the cases. I demurred, thinking the amount was not sufficient, and I asked why the sum of $130,000 had been reached. I was told that such was the best figure Rinehart & Dennis had offered or would offer; it was the largest sum that could be obtained.
I refused to settle on behalf of my clients, and I was told that unless I did all papers, all evidence, would be destroyed, and that, of course, met a helpless situation so far as the clients I represented were concerned. I finally agreed to settle and releases were obtained and the cases were closed in August 1933.
In October 1933 I was advised that Rinehart & Dennis, the tunnel contractors, had paid some of the attorneys for the plaintiff $20,000 in order to effect that settlement. I later found that there was a contract entered into between Mr. Perkins, then general manager of the Rinehart & Dennis Co., tunnel contractors, and two of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs under the terms of which contract Rinehart & Dennis agreed to pay the attorneys $20,000 for effecting the settlement. In May 1934 that contract was a basis upon which to proceed, and I wrote to Mr. Falconer, president of the Rinehart & Dennis Co., tunnel contractors, Charlottesville, Va., and demanded an accounting of that money. I sent a copy of the letter to those representing the defendants and the attorneys who had received the $20,000. I received a letter from Falconer stating that the money had been paid in good faith. One of the two attorneys came to my office and stated that the money had been paid, and that he was in a position where he could raise half of the money that had been paid over, and if we would accept that, the money would be paid. In a few days he brought to us a check for $10,000, and that money was distributed to the clients who had participated in the settlement.
I can only say in passing that I think the payment of that money, the suspicions tampering with the jury system, was about the most damnable outrage that had been perpetrated in any State up to that time.
I think that covers my recital, Mr. Randolph.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. As a matter of fact, Mr. Mason, at one of these trials where the jury was deadlocked, was not one of the jurors held in contempt of court?
Mr. MASON. That is correct.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. What was the basis of the contempt proceedings against that juror?
Mr. Mason. It was shown to the court that there were many occasions when this particular juror had ridden back and forth from his home to Fayetteville with representatives of the Rinehart & Dennis Co.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. That was during the trial?
Mr. MARCANTONIO. Do you know whether or not an agreement had been entered into between Rinehart & Dennis and the attorneys for the plaintiffs wherein and whereby Rinehart & Dennis Co. agreed to pay the attorneys for the plaintiffs the sum of $20,000 ?
Mr. Mason. Mr. Marcantonio, it was not an agreement by Rinehart & Dennis to pay the $20,000.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. By whom was the agreement?
Mr. Mason. It was by Mr. Perkins, general manager of Rinehart & Dennis Co., and the other gentleman,
whose name I do not recall, who was superintendent for them; but so far as Rinehart & Dennis Co. were concerned the contract did not refer to them as the party paying the money.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. The contract was one by and between one of the officers of the Rinehart & Dennis Co. and somebody else.
Mr. Mason. Yes.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. It was between the superintendent of Rinehart & Dennis Co. and the attorneys for the plaintiffs?
Mr. Mason. Yes.
time seen that contract? Mr. Mason. Yes; I have.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. State from your memory, to the best of your recollection, the contents of that contract, the terms of the contract.
Mr. Mason. There is a recital of the pending settlement of the cases, and, in consideration of the efforts of these attorneys to bring about the settlement, it provided that they should be paid $20,000 upon consummation of the contract. That is the essence of that contract.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. These attorneys received their share of the retainer; pursuant to the agreement they received a share of the compromise.
Mr. Mason. They received $30,000 for their fee in that case.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. And in addition to that they received $20,000 from Mr. Perkins, who represented the Rinehart & Dennis Co.
Mr. Mason. Yes.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. I should like to make an observation at this time, with the permission of my colleagues.
Mr. RANDOLPH. Proceed.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. A great deal has been said in the press by or in behalf of Rinehart & Dennis, the tunnel contractors, and particularly by Mr. Falconer, president of the Rinehart & Dennis Co., to the effect that these victims were practicing a racket, that they were practically engaged in a racket, and he, further, described the silicosis situation there as a silicosis racket. I agree with them that a racket has been practiced, but the most damnable racketeering that I have ever known is the paying of a fee to the very attorneys who represented these victims. That is the most outrageous racketeering that has ever come within my knowledge. Not only Al Capone should be in Alcatraz, but these representatives of the Rinehart & Dennis Co., tunnel contractors, should be there with him. Moreover, in order to remove any immunity that may attach to me in this connection, I am going to repeat that on every public platform upon which I appear within the next month or so, I am going to waive all immunity and make that statement and more statements.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. Did I understand you to say that 400 of those workers entered suit against the contractor?
Mr. MASON. That is correct.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. How many of those 400 suits were settled out of court?
Mr. MASON. All of those cases were settled out of court. There was a commission consisting of Dr. Harless, Dr. Hughey, and Dr. Hayhurst, appointed to consider this matter. They were agreed upon as members of a so-called silicosis commission which should pass upon the question of whether or not the plaintiffs were suffering from silicosis. If a victim were deemed to be in the first, second, or third stage, of this disease, he was to be given so much money. If he were a white man, he should be given more than if he were colored. If married and he was in the first stage, he was to be given more than otherwise; more than if he were single. In other words, the damages were to be graduated. I would say that about 200 of those plaintiffs participated in that settlement, and that would be about one-half of them.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. How many workers contracted silicosis as a result of working in the Gauley Bridge Tunnel ?
Mr. Mason. That is not determinable. You could not say whether there were 500 or 600 or how many. Nobody could possibly calculate that accurately.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. The very fact that the corporation decided to make settlement out of court convinces one that the corporation was guilty of violation of law.
Mr. Mason. Yes. I do not think there was any question about the liability of the defendant in those cases.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. You communicated with Rinehart & Dennis Co. with reference to the $20,000 it paid to the attorneys for the plaintiff, as I understand you.
Mr. Mason. Yes; I communicated with Mr. Falconer, president of the Rinehart & Dennis Co.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. Did he answer you?
Mr. Mason. After acknowledging receipt of the letter he said this money had been paid in good faith.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. He said that this money, paid by Mr. Perkins of the Rinehart & Dennis Co. to the attorneys for the plaintiffs, was paid in good faith?
Mr. Mason. Yes.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. As a matter of fact, was not the payment made by check! Mr. Mason. It was.
Mr. RANDOLPH. With what firm were you engaged when you entered these cases, Mr. Mason?
Mr. Mason. I was by myself at the time.
Mr. RANDOLPH. How did you become interested in the cases, Mr. Mason?
Mr. Mason. It was a sort of outgrowth of the work I did in connection with the workmen's compensation department of West Virginia, which work I started in 1931.
Mr. RANDOLPH. You mentioned the name of Mr. Lambie, who was at the time head of the State bureau of mines.
Mr. Mason. Yes; he was head of the bureau of mines.
Mr. RANDOLPH. There has been testimony at our hearings that Mr. Lambie changed his position on the question during the course of the trial. Have you any knowledge of that?
Mr. Mason. Nothing except what I learned from his speech at the Coal Institute held at Madison, W. Va., prior to his being a witness in the trial of these cases for Rinehart & Dennis Co.
Mr. RANDOLPH. Can you tell us about that?
Mr. Mason. It has been 3 years since I was connected with those cases, but it has been reported to us, and I think it was carried in the Coal Valley News, that Mr. Lambie made a speech before the Coal Institute at Madison, W. Va., and described the deplorable conditions that these men were required to work under in that tunnel. Later, in his testimony before the court, he described those conditions as being excellent. That is a change of pace, you might say.
Mr. RANDOLPH. Over a period of how long?
Mr. MARCANTONIO. I have received a further communication from Mr. Brower, as a result of whose report the Federal Emergency Relief Administration report was made, in which Mr. Brower informed me that, if the committee so desires, he will send us copies of the report Mr. Lambie made on this tunnel situation, in which report he described the conditions. It seems in this one report he, as a matter of fact, even threatened the Rinehart & Dennis Co., tunnel contractors, with prosecution for violating the rules and regulations of the State bureau of mines. I expect to have those copies here within a day or two.
Mr. RANDOLPH. What attorneys received $25,000? What is the name of the law firm?
Mr. Mason. I would rather not give that, Mr. Randolph.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. Is there any way whereby we may obtain that information without embarrassing you?
Mr. Mason. Yes, there is.
Mr. Mason. It is available at Fayetteville.
Mr. RANDOLPH. A firm practicing in the county seat of Fayette County?
Mr. Mason. That is right.
Mr. RANDOLPH. I would like to have for the record again your statement as to the number of victims of silicosis, the number that you believe died during the progress of constructing that tunnel.
Mr. Mason. That would be very hard to estimate. There have been exaggerated reports of that. I know one of the Fayette stories we told in building up sentiment in behalf of these plaintiffs was partially true and basically correct in some respects; but this man White, the undertaker, as I understand, buried 500 of those victims up there in a farm yard in pine boxes near Summersville. The further information is that Rinehart & Dennis Co., tunnel contractors, paid White $50 a head for burying those men in plain pine boxes, and the families were advised that their relatives had died as a result of pneumonia or some other such disease not connected with silicosis. I would estimate, conservatively, that at least 300 persons fell victims of that disease.
I especially know one man named Charles Jones, whose case was most pitiful. Charles weighed about 160 pounds when he went to work for Rinehart & Dennis, the tunnel contractors; and I represented him. When I was first employed in his case he was still apparently in good physical condition; but during the pending of these cases he fell from 160 pounds to 95 pounds in weight. He was completely wiped out, one might properly say.
His was a typical case among the victims of this disease.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. Is he one of the Jones boys who died.
Mr. Mason. He is the father of two or three boys who died with this disease.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. Charles Jones is still living. He was here the other day. What is Mr. Perkins' full name?
Mr. MASON. His initials are E. J. His name is E. J. Perkins.
My files are all in Charleston and I have not had them available lately to make a study of this thing. My memory, however, is good in connection with this matter, even though I do not recall some of the details.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. There is no doubt in your mind that Mr. E. J. Perkins was acting for the Rinehart & Dennis Co., tunnel contractors?
Mr. Mason. There is absolutely no doubt about that.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. When did you communicate with Rinehart & Dennis Co. in connection with the payment of $20,000!
Mr. Mason. I do not remember the date.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. But when you did communicate with Rinehart & Dennis Co., tunnel contractors, concerning this payment of $20,000, you did receive a communication in black and white from the company stating that the money had been paid in good faith?
Mr. MASON. Yes.