Tobacco Lawyers' Mega-Jackpot
May 22, 2000
The numbers are mind-boggling. Fees handed over in the past 17 months to lawyers who sued the tobacco companies on behalf of the states add up to $10.4 billion.
- Twelve law firms involved in the Florida suit split $3.4 billion amongst themselves.
- Seven firms got $3.29 billion out of the Texas case.
- Fees in Mississippi totaled $1.4 billion.
- The $575 million award for lawyers representing Louisiana works out to $6,700 an hour, according to a dissenting arbitrator.
While critics acknowledge the lawyers took a big gamble in going forward with what must have seemed almost unwinable cases, they charge that the stratospheric fees have become disconnected from the value of work done or risk taken.
Consequently, Texas has passed a bill making it far more difficult for the state to hire private lawyers in the future. And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is lobbying for legislation that would not only limit states' ability to hire private counsel, but also give added protection to industries.
Source: Editorial, "$6,700 an Hour? Lawyers' Tobacco-Suit Fees Invite Revolt," USA Today, May 22, 2000.
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