Trials & Litigation

Lawyer who targeted tobacco companies encourages state suits against drug makers for opioid crisis

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Four states and more than a dozen cities and counties have filed lawsuits contending drug makers misrepresented the risks and benefits of opioid use, spurring an addiction crisis.

Some of the lawyers working on the suits were previously involved in lawsuits claiming tobacco companies misrepresented the health risks of smoking, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Among the lawyers is Michael Moore, who filed the first state lawsuit against tobacco companies in 1994 when he was attorney general of Mississippi. Soon after he left office in 2004, Moore got involved in lawsuits filed against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma by patients who said they became addicted, despite taking the drug as prescribed. The suits settled for $74 million in 2007.

Now Moore’s law firm, based in Flowood, Mississippi, is helping represent the states of Mississippi and Ohio in their suits against drug makers. Missouri and Oklahoma also have also sued. Moore is also meeting with other lawyers representing government to coordinate arguments.

Another lawyer involved in the suits is Joe Rice of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina-based Motley Rice, who was outside counsel to two dozen states in the tobacco litigation. Rice notes that lawyers in the tobacco suits stayed in touch, and he expects communication among lawyers in the opioid suits.

Moore’s use of outside counsel while attorney general helped make the practice more popular, though some critics say the practice improperly gives law enforcement powers to law firms with an interest in profiting from the suits, the article points out.

In the Ohio case, the Journal reports that Moore’s law firm and five other firms have a fee agreement that gives them 25 percent of any recovery up to $10 million, and a smaller percentage for additional recoveries with a maximum fee of $50 million.

See also: “Drug firms knew opiates were being abused on Cherokee reservations but did nothing, lawsuit alleges”

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