Center for America

Speaker's Resource: 5. Plaintiffs Bar, p 6



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Key Reference Citations (KRC)


Attorneys’ Fees in the Tobacco Litigation


(KRC: Olson, The Rule of Lawyers, p. 48-52)


The exorbitant amounts awarded to plaintiffs in the tobacco litigation have been well-reported, but less well known are the eye-popping fees paid to a fairly small group of plaintiffs’ lawyers who managed the litigation.  Here’s a list of the fees initially awarded to the attorneys representing certain states, which may have been subsequently reduced upon further review by the courts:

  • Texas $3.3 billion…Mississippi $1.4 billion…Florida $3.4 billion.  These fees have been described as “by far the largest haul of legal fees in the history of the planet”. One trial attorney said that “these figures are beyond human comprehension and the work does not justify them”.

  • Louisiana lawyers asked for $1.3 billion and received $575 million

  • Massachusetts lawyers asked for $2 billion and received $775 million

  • In New York six law firms received $625 million

  • Oklahoma lawyers received $250 million and Ohio attorneys received $265 million

  • Wisconsin lawyers requested $847 million and received $75 million.  Based on the number of hours the three firms claimed to have worked on the case, the initial fee demand worked out to an average rate exceeding $32,000 an hour, an amount which exceeded what a typical family in northern Wisconsin earned in more than a year! Public outcry prompted the lawyers to reduce their fee demand by 90% so that they only earned $2,853 an hour.

  • Lawyers in several “tag-along” states received huge sums despite the fact that their contributions and time commitments were relatively modest: Illinois $121 million; New Jersey $350 million; Missouri $100 million; Michigan $450 million.



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