Clients Deserve Better And So Do Lawyers

Last night after a long day at work I went home and decided to browse local television shows. In so doing, I came across a program entitled “American Greed.” The topic of the program I was watching was extremely disappointing to me but regrettably a symptom of modern day society. The program dealt with greedy lawyers who were stealing from their clients. I watched the program in amazement because the greed of these lawyers was utterly fantastic and extremely disappointing to me as a plaintiff’s tort lawyer.
The crooked lawyers had worked on a class-action settlement involving the very popular anti-obesity drug Fen-Phen which was introduced into the marketplace in the mid 90’s. Unfortunately, this drug, which was taken by millions) caused heart problems. Many people died and had serious heart disease and disorders resulting from the use of the product. Class-actions followed and these three lawyers in Kentucky were able to secure a $200 million settlement for approximately 450 clients they represented in the state of Kentucky. Their contingent fee agreement provided that they would receive one-third (1/3) of the settlement ($60 million) or $20 million each. Rather than accept this huge and enormous fee, which would have lasted them a lifetime, instead they preceded to steal another $50 to 60 million dollars from their clients through false representations and numerous acts of fraud.
Obviously, these lawyers deserved to go to jail and two of the three were sentenced to over 25 years in prison. (Incredibly, one of the lawyers got off on a defense centered around alcoholism). What was disappointing to me as I watched to program was the damage this kind of program does to the Bar in general. Clients deserve better and so do lawyers. Clients deserve to have the utmost trust in their lawyers and lawyers, of course, owe a fiduciary duty to their clients to observe that trust and honor it at all times.
These crooked lawyers, unfortunately, support a popular notion that many lawyers are crooks. Most lawyers I know work extremely hard, are ethical and do the best job they can for their client. Regrettably, it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the proverbial barrel and for the legal profession, these kinds of lawyers do untold damage, particularly to the reputation of lawyers generally.
Our firm has been honorably representing tort victims for over 45 years. We always uphold standards of trust and fiduciary duty. We have never violated this trust and never will. The vast majority of all lawyers adhere to the same standards of professionalism. Regrettably, because of a declining emphasis on professionalism and ethics, a few unethical lawyers use their degrees to prey upon vulnerable people who seek their legal representation. The only good news that came out of the program from my perspective is that the legal system worked in the end because other lawyers at the U.S. Attorney’s Office along with another plaintiff’s lawyer got justice for these victims. The plaintiff’s lawyer sued for malpractice and recovered as much money as possible and other lawyers at the U.S. Attorney’s Office put these crooks in jail. Thus, while the victims still suffered needlessly from the incredible greed, the system at least did find some measure of justice for the victims. As stated, clients deserve better and so do lawyers.

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