Believe it or Not: Disgracing Plaintiff Attorneys’ “Good Name”

Plaintiff attorneys like to wrap themselves in a mantle of public service, looking out for the "little guy" and crusading for justice by sticking it to a rich corporation guilty of some heinous abuse of power.

I’m sure there are a few trial lawyers who actually live up to that billing, although I have no evidence to prove it. Here’s a story of three plaintiff attorneys whose greed and corruption was so extreme they may have further lowered the bar, so to speak.

The New York Times reported that three Kentucky lawyers face grand jury indictments for bilking clients out of at least $40 million. Here are the facts:

The lawyers undertook a class action suit in 2001 representing 440 plaintiffs suing American Home Products for alleged damage to their hearts from taking the drug Phen-fen, which the company has since withdrawn from the market at the request of  the Food and Drug Administration.

The Kentucky Three took the case with the agreement that they would receive 30 to 33 percent of any settlement, plus normal expenses. So when American Home Products settled the case for $200 million, the lawyers raked in a cool $66 million (because no lawyer is going to accept less than the maximum allowed, right?).

Only these guys decided they needed an additional $20 million to set up a questionable charity and another $40 million for themselves, because… well because they thought $106 million sounded better than $66 million and you know, they had worked really hard and all.

Quoting from the Times story: Had the lawyers merely taken what they were contractually entitled to, they still would have become very rich men, said Tracy Curtis, a mortgage loan officer who is also suing her former lawyers. “They could have taken the high road,” she said.

The high road. That’s the road trial lawyers talk so much about taking, but it turns out to be about the only thing they never do take.

- Jon Harmon

   

Comments

  1. NBT says:

    Ad hominem attacks on all trial lawyers (regardless of your “disclaimer” about the fact that you are sure not all trial lawyers are like these greedy ones) hurts your credibility.
    For every greedy lawyer, whatever field of law in which they practice, there are countless lawyers who are doing good. Think about all the lives that have been saved because of the three-point seat belts, or the lives that have been saved because cars that blow up on rear-end impacts were taken out of the market place. There are hundreds of other example where trial lawyers have contributed positively to the wellbeing and safety of the people in this society.
    Greed…? Greed is in human nature. You can find it anywhere. Even journalists and writers can be guilty of it.
    NBT

  2. john says:

    “There are hundreds of other example where trial lawyers have contributed positively to the wellbeing and safety of the people in this society.”
    NBT, are you joking – or a trial lawyer? To cite the outcome (Seatbelts) of paricular lawsuits misses the point commpletely.
    The point is that NO ONE believes that was the purpose of the lawsuit. It was to enrich the lawyer. Period.
    Like an actor that immerses himself in a role; lawyers profess great…anger, sadness, shock …whatever emotion that particular case requires.
    Again the point is that no one believes this. The only true emotion that is percolating inside is greed. Maximize the number of plaintiffs, maximize the award, and maximize the amount going to the lawyer.
    You are absolutely correct that greed is common to all. But again you miss the point. Lawyers have the vehicle by which they can exploit that greed.
    A greedy barber can only raise his price – which may drive customers away. But a lawyer has no such constraints. He can prey on human tragedy (of course with the appropriate emotion) and feel good that lawn mowers now display all of the important labels about not putting ones hands underneath.
    But we all know that the point of the lawsuit was to enrich the lawyer. Yes?

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