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Contingent Fee Lawyers Lose Case, Use Outrageous Trial Tactics, Still Get $218M in Fees



The Daily Business Review reports that Miami-Dade Circuit Judge David C. Miller has awarded $218 million in legal fees Tuesday to Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt for work they did on the now-dismissed class action litigation against the nation's biggest cigarette markers. "I find it very reasonable," Miller said from the bench, referring to fee calculations estimating the couple worked for 77 hours a week on average at an hourly rate of $274. "These are reasonable and conservative hours."

"In fact, in some firms that would not have been acceptable billing," the judgee joked before a courtroom packed with at least 200 people.

Incredibly, the fees would come out of a common "guaranteed fund" of about $800 million that Big Tobacco put up as legally required collateral in 2001 to appeal the record $145 billion punitive verdict the Rosenblatt's had obtained against cigarette makers. The verdict was later thrown out by the Florida Supreme Court along with a class certification order uniting sick smokers in a single lawsuit. The court also rebuked the Rosenblatts' craven appeals to racial prejudice of jurors.

The judge still must determine how to distribute the rest of the $800 million fund.

Tobacco attorney Robert Heim, a partner with Dechert in Philadelphia, argued that "it would be wrong under common fund law" to award fees to the Rosenblatts, saying a guardian ad litem should be appointed to administer a fund "to protect the interests of the class."

This fascinating case is of course a mockery of the contingent fee (the lawyers collected nothing for their clients) and demonstrates the corrupting effect of supersedeas bonds.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy
rmangual@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.