by Paul C. Clark – Staff Writer
September 03, 2009
Two women have come forward questioning Linda K. May, the woman who in May and June made herself the centerpiece of the Oak Ridge Elementary School environmental mystery, for her dealings in workers’ compensation cases in California and Michigan.
Until now, the focus on May has been the medical tests she is offering to sell to Oak Ridge parents and to ailing veterans – tests for which the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can find no approval, despite May’s claim at a public meeting in Kernersville on June 10 that the test was FDA approved, and for which the US Patent and Trademark Office lists no patent in May’s name, despite May’s claims that she holds one.
Each woman said she paid May $1,500 to act in a relative’s workers’ compensation case, then, as far as each could tell, May did nothing to earn that money. Each provided a copy of a cancelled check written to LKM Health and Safety, and endorsed with May’s name when they were cashed.
In both cases, the women said they had written about their problems on internet sites and that May contacted them. The women said May stopped taking their calls after she got the money.
Sandra Trend, a 62-year-old Sacramento, California, woman, said that May accepted the $1,500 to represent her son in a workers’ compensation case. Phyllis Foster, also 62, of Wayne, Michigan, said that May accepted the $1,500 to act as an expert witness in her deceased husband’s case – something the head of the Michigan Workers’ Compensation Agency said May, as a registered nurse, is not well qualified to do.
May has claimed to have connections with the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as well as to have written OSHA’s regulations governing chemical and mold exposure in the workplace. OSHA, as a federal regulatory agency, creates its regulations under a complex rulemaking process governed by the federal Administrative Procedures Act, which involves hearings, the gathering of an in-depth evidentiary record and intense lobbying by corporations, associations and interest groups. An OSHA spokeswoman said the agency has no record of May being involved in any rulemaking.
May also claimed to have two OSHA certifications, neither of which OSHA officials have confirmed, and neither of which, if they did exist, would qualify her to sell medical tests, act as an expert witness or represent people in workers’ compensation cases. May also claimed to be certified as an OSHA mold expert, a certification OSHA said does not exist.
Trend said May contacted her in August 2006, after Trend had posted a notice on the legal website Toxlaw.com, describing the case of her son, David Bell, who has severe health problems and attributes them to exposure to biotoxins at a California biotechnology firm. Trend said her son has had several operations and is disabled.
Trend said that May used the claimed OSHA connections in selling herself.
“When she was trying to hook me in, she said she was the one who wrote the safety regulations for OSHA, the chemical regulations, and so on,” Trend said. “She was like a bulldog. She was relentless.”
Trend said May offered to represent her son directly in the courtroom.
“She wasn’t going to be an expert witness,” Trend said. “She was going to be the one to defend David to try to win his workman’s compensation case. She said, ‘I am God in the courtroom.’ That was kind of a flag there, but I just kind of ignored it because I was desperate.”
Trend said she sent May a $1,500 check on Nov. 9, 2006, and May cashed it on Nov. 15, 2006. Trend said she also agreed to pay for May’s airline flights to California and her lodging in California while representing Trend’s son. She said May asked for the visit to be extended so May could go to the beach.
Trend provided a copy of the check – a bank check drawn on Wells Fargo Bank – which is made out to LKM Health and Safety, and is marked with the name of Bell’s case.
According to Trend, May asked her to send her son’s medical records to an address in Urbana – the address of May’s patent attorney, Michael Berns. Trend said she spent $246 preparing and shipping the medical records. She said May responded with a couple of emails asking questions about the case, then stopped taking her calls without acting in the case.
Trend provided a series of emails from May that she said documented May’s approach to her. The emails come from the same America Online account May used to contact this newspaper in May 2009.
The emails are also written in the same style May used in her emails to this paper.
On Oct. 30, 2006, May wrote, “I am the woman who wrote the chem exposure safety regs and can help you Linda”.
On Nov. 1, 2006, May wrote, “Cal OSHA laws cover your son’s exposure the state must has a law as strong as the federal or stronger so he is covered but as I told you he must have an expert and that is me no one else testifies as to the health issues of the exposures Linda”.
On Dec. 19, 2003, May wrote Trend, asking her to call a woman in Sacramento, California, a potential client of May’s, and verify May’s credibility. Trend said, “This I could not and would not do, as I could not give her a recommendation for May because May had done nothing at this point.”
Compare those emails with the one from the same address with which May made her unsolicited approach to this paper on May 28, 2009, shortly after the Oak Ridge story broke: “I am the international expert in health effects of the toxic black mold I have some very important urgent information for you can you please call me asap you can call anytime 24 hours a day LInda K May BS,RN,BSN, OSHA Instit Accredit, EPA Accredit thanks Linda”. That email bore the subject line “urgent.”
Trend said she sent May several follow-up emails, but that May did nothing on the case and never came to California to see her.
Trend provided a letter from her attorney, John Overton, to May, dated March 8, 2007. In that letter, Overton asked May to return the $1,500 and Bell’s medical records. Overton said that doing so would avoid “conflict with the federal court system relating to any perceived deceptive business practices and/or possible mail fraud.” Trend said May has returned neither.
In the Michigan case, Foster said her husband, Mack, died in 2003 of a heart attack on the floor of the Ford Motor Company truck plant where he worked as an inspector. She said that, after getting advice from friends that she should seek legal counsel, she posted a question on a website for attorneys, and was later contacted by May, who offered to act as an expert witness to testify that the death of Foster’s husband was work-related. Foster, too, said she sent May records and never heard from her again.
“She said to mail her $1,500, and that she was going to write a report and testify in the trial,” Foster said. “She said she’d get us big money, and she did nothing.” Foster said May wanted another $2,100 to testify.
Foster provided a copy of the check, dated Jan. 5, 2005, and drawn on Bank One of Michigan. The “for” line of the check reads, “Retainer Fee for Mack J. Foster Work Comp Cases.”
Jack Nolish, director of the Michigan Workers’ Compensation Agency, said that he knows of no case in which a person with May’s nursing and bachelor’s degrees has acted as an expert witness in a workers’ compensation case. He called those degrees “woefully lacking” for an expert witness or for reviewing medical records.
“That testimony wouldn’t stand,” he said. “In Michigan, a registered nurse wouldn’t do the trick.”
Nolish confirmed the existence of the case, the cause of death and the withdrawal of the case on March 31, 2005. He said the case never went to trial and that no testimony, briefs or deposition transcripts were filed in the case, since there was no trial or hearing.
There are similarities between the California and Michigan cases.
In both the women already had what they said were competent representatives, who they said May, after becoming involved, disparaged and tried to get them to fire.
“She just really tried to discredit him,” Trend said. Trend added that May said her attorney “was a phony; he didn’t know what he was doing.”
Foster said that May complained about Foster’s attorney, and when Foster forwarded her attorney emails in which May disparaged him, the attorney pulled out of the case. Neither Trend’s nor Foster’s attorneys could be reached for comment.
“When I sent the emails to my lawyer, he ended up not wanting to work on the case from her running her mouth,” Foster said.
In both cases, the women said May gave them a hard-luck story about her living situation, leading them to feel sorry for her at first.
Trend said that May explained the necessity of mailing the documents to Berns’ office by referring to a housing problem. Trend said, “She gave me this B.S. story about how there was a fire in her house, and her fax machine was burnt.”
Foster said that May cited a burglary at her house as the reason it was necessary for Foster to overnight the $1,500 check to her. “She worried about getting that check,” Foster said. “She gave me a sob story that her house had been broken into. She claimed that, after her house was supposedly gotten into, she was homeless and was living in this lawyer’s office at nighttime.”
Berns, an Illinois patent attorney, said that May did have a housing problem, but that it was because of a financial deal with a family friend over the sale of her house. He said she was living in another lawyer’s office, not his.
“She didn’t have a place to stay,” Berns said. “She had a problem with her home where she lost her home. It was a complicated financial problem.”
Berns acknowledged receiving medical records addressed to May, but said that he had not solicited them.
“I did receive some medical records packages for her,” he said. “I don’t know what was in them. She didn’t have an office and she was moving. I don’t even know if she even asked me if I would take them. That’s the way she does things sometimes.”
Berns, who is listed with the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office as the contact for May’s company, Warbler of Illinois, was also able to shed some light on the issues of the patents that May claims to hold. In June, May said she held two patents: one for the urine test she is selling and one for a wall unit she said would detect “black mold” before anyone could see or smell it.
“I hold the patent, and I turn it over to a company to produce,” May said.
Of the urine test, May said, “I’m the patent holder. As the patent holder, my name went on it, but I don’t make a dime off of it.”
Searches of the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database turn up no patents with May listed as the inventor or assignee of a patent or the legal representative of a patent holder. The database lists two patents under the name “Linda May,” one by an Oklahoma woman for a livestock restraining gate and one by a California woman for a face pillow. The database has no records under the name Warbler of Illinois.
Berns said that May holds no patents, but that he has worked with her on applying for a patent. Patents are not listed in the USPTO database until approved.
“She’s been working on patents,” he said. “None are issued. I don’t know if she just doesn’t understand the terminology of patent applied for, patent pending, or working on the patents.”
Berns said that the patent application he was preparing for May was not for a urine test. May said the test kit she is selling is both a urine test for human exposure and an environmental test for the home. A photograph of it shows both a urine-sample bottle and a Petri dish.
Berns said that, to his knowledge, May planned to contract out the testing for her products to an outside laboratory. But May has made repeated claims that Warbler of Illinois has a laboratory, or is preparing to open one.
In Kernersville in June, she said that the lab would be operated in conjunction with St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and would open within nine days.
In an interview shortly afterward, May dropped the St. Jude’s claim and said the company was running the lab.
On August 11, May appeared on Veterans for Veteran Connection, an internet radio program selling test kits, this time as tests for Agent Orange exposure. Agent Orange is a pesticide chemically unrelated to mold and was used as a defoliant during the Vietnam War. May said veterans have won veterans benefits for Agent Orange exposure using her test.
Asked about that claim later, Terry Jemison, a spokesman for the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in Washington, said the VA presumes exposure for any veteran who was in Vietnam and has one of a list of diseases linked to the defoliant by the Institute of Medicine. He said a test wouldn’t make any difference to benefits.
Jemison said, “Whether or not they can actually prove that they were exposed is irrelevant, if they can show that they have one of the diseases that have been shown to be linked to Agent Orange.”
On the radio, show, May said that the lab is in Pontiac, Illinois. “We don’t give you the location of the lab, it’s just within Livingston County, Pontiac, Illinois,” she said. May said the lab had been in Maryland. “It’s not been in Pontiac until recently,” she said.
The mayor of Pontiac, Bob Russell, appeared on the radio show with May and a group of veterans from the Pontiac town hall, saying the town had been working with May for months to try to get her to locate a lab there. But Russell spoke as if the lab did not yet exist, at least in Pontiac.
On Tuesday, Sept. 1, Pontiac City Administrator Robert Karls said that Warbler of Illinois does not have an operating lab in Pontiac. He said the city has not yet had a chance to verify any of the claims May has made for the company.
According to the FDA and other federal officials, whether Warbler of Illinois had a laboratory, or was contracting the test out to another lab, the lab doing the test would have to be registered, inspected and monitored under the federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA), a registration that is required for labs offering medical tests in the United States. Each lab registered under CLIA is given a CLIA number, which is not secret. The CLIA database contains no registration for a lab run by Warbler of Illinois, either in Illinois or in Maryland. May has not identified any other lab as doing the testing.
May did not return calls or emails for comment. Two of her attorneys said they would pass on requests for an interview to her.