Document request sparks debate

Business Insurance
Monday, March 26, 2001

An employer group's attempt to obtain details of the agreements between state governments and outside counsel with which they contracted for work involving the multistate tobacco litigation is drawing plaudits from supporters of civil justice reform.

Consumer advocates say, though, that the move could lead to violations of attorney/client privilege, with some opponents holding that the move lacks justification and is nothing more than another prong in an attack on the nation's plaintiffs bar.

The Assn. of Trial Lawyers of America blasted the Chamber's move as hypocritical-noting that the Chamber receives funding from the tobacco industry-and as simply an attack on the plaintiffs bar (BI, March 19).

A prominent consumer advocate agreed. ''This is part of a much broader orchestrated attack on trial lawyers,'' said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice & Democracy in New York.

''The arrangements with the states, not only were they made voluntarily but most of the lawyers involved in these suits agreed to relinquish their rights under their contracts with the states and let an arbitration panel decide their fees. This was done with full cooperation of the tobacco companies. So the Chamber has no grounds to complain. Really, their goal is to intimidate and harass these lawyers so they won't work with the states in the future on similar mass torts,'' she said.

For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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