Lawyers hunt massive opioid-suit payday

“A Bloomberg review of almost 100 [opioid-suit] agreements between the municipalities and their lawyers puts the stakes into focus: If the plaintiffs collect anything close to the maximum $50 billion that a global settlement may yield, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence estimate, a handful of attorneys could pocket at least one-quarter of that.” In all so far, “lawyers have brought more than 900 cases on behalf of states, local governments and tribes, as well as unions, medical practices and individuals.” [Andrew Harris, Jared Hopkins and Hannah Recht, Business Week/Bloomberg]

5 Comments

  • Several of those lawyers are from my little burg here in east central Florida.

    After negotiating with one attorney to represent the City, another came in and complained that the first attorney wasn’t moving as quickly as he would and the first guy (who was not yet under contract or had signed any agreement) was not good for the City.

    That set up a special City Council meeting (including statements from the public and City Staff watching the proceedings instead of doing, you know, actual City work.

    Both lawyers gave the max amount of dollars to City Council members up for election this year.

    Both lawyers have said that no matter who the City decides, the other will sue the City for something or other.

    The taxpayers will foot the bill for this infighting no matter what.

  • How should this be handled. Assuming there is a decent case against the opioid manufacturers, do we want government to take on the financial risks? If not, then getting attorneys on a contingency basis will work. You cannot pay the attorneys a contingent hourly rate, it would be unethical.

    As for the donations, how is it a problem to those that agree with Citizen’s Unitied? According to that decision, money is speech and people have the right to petition government officials. This is no more corruption than the defense industry donating to the chairman of congressional committees…

    • Assuming there is a decent case against the opiod manufacturers…..

      That’s a big assumption right off the bat. Opiods have been in use in the medical profession since the Civil War. The effects of that class of drugs is not unknown.

      As for “the risk,” I’d prefer that the government stay out of it all together. While these cases will be couched in “public health and safety,” what they really are is a money grab. As the money from the tobacco settlements continue to dry up, governments are looking for revenue streams.

      Why should the lawyers be paid on a contingency basis? Why not a flat rate to handle the case? Why not “here’s $10 million…now go win!” instead of “you get 25% to 50% of every dime you bring back.

      Once again, if the idea is that these cases are being pursued because of the basis of “public health and safety,” shouldn’t the goal be to get as much back into an account that deals with public health and safety rather than the bank account of the lawyer?

      The problem with the donations were the timing. The Council was humming along when the donation from the second lawyer was made and a Councilman wanted to change. The first lawyer got a big defense from the guy he just donated to. There’s an appearance on impropriety there. It wasn’t about the best person or firm for the job suddenly. It appeared to many to be whose vote was bought and paid for.

    • Let’s look at Allan’s claim that we should not raise an eyebrow at the lawyers’ donations to municipal officials unless we believe Citizens United to be wrongly decided. The Citizens United case concerned whether 1) the government could ban 2) speech critical of a political candidate by an entity that 3) did not coordinate its speech with the opposing candidate and 4) was never suspected of any sort of receipt of favors or quid pro quo expectation from the opponent or from any other government official.

      According to Allan, that case is on all fours with the question of whether 1) private commentators should scrutinize or criticize 2) the changing hands of money between 3) donor and candidate in a direct relationship where there is 4) the appearance of a quid pro quo payment for official decisions.

      No wonder Allan is upset about Citizens United if he imagines that it established a constitutional right to drop bags of cash onto government officials’s desks in exchange for favorable official action.. If it were about that, I would be upset too. Fortunately, it is a First Amendment case about free speech.

  • Walter,

    I do not agree with how you characterize my comments.

    I 100% agree with you. The lawyer’s contributions stink of corruption. I also think they should be illegal as such. However, SCOTUS has made it clear: money is speech, so what is happening, while corrupt, is not and cannot be made illegal.

    Perhaps if as much light was shined on other forms of campaign financing, this might be what Justice Kennedy envisioned in Citizens United and its progenitors.

    To put it succinctly, it is not criticism of this I dislike. It is that this sort of corruption is endemic in government and it is generally ignored.

    Perhaps we can also say that the Koch brothers financing politicians who favor tax breaks, and getting billions of dollars when the breaks are passed is also corrupt?

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