Legal Ethics

Plaintiffs Win Right to Lawyers’ Championship Horse

More than 400 plaintiffs who claimed their lawyers defrauded them out of money due in a pharmaceutical settlement have been awarded a 20 percent stake in champion race horse Curlin.

Judge William Wehr of Kentucky awarded the plaintiffs a right to 20 percent of the proceeds from the future sale of Curlin and from any of its winnings, the New York Times reports. A sale of the horse, which won both the Preakness and the Breeders’ Cup, could fetch as much as $40 million, the newspaper says. Other estimates were even higher.

Lawyers Shirley Cunningham Jr. and William Gallion bought Curlin for $57,000 and later sold an 80 percent stake in the horse to two stables and an investment banker, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. The two lawyers represented the plaintiffs in litigation over the diet drug fen-phen along with a third lawyer, Melbourne Mills Jr.

The lawyers were found liable for at least $42 million in a civil suit by the plaintiffs, who claim they were cheated out of settlement proceeds. The three remain in jail pending a trial on criminal charges of wire fraud stemming from the settlement, the Associated Press reports.

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