In state recoupment litigation against the tobacco industry, most states retained personal injury lawyers on a contingent fee basis to assist them with their litigation. Many of these contracts, inked without competitive bidding, and with little or no outside oversight, were rife with political favoritism, inside dealing, and in at least one case, amid the stench of corruption. Many of these billion-dollar fees (which bore little or no relation to the value of the work performed) are being strategically reinvested into the political process, and into still more litigation.

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Why It’s a Problem

Since the landmark recoupment lawsuits against the tobacco industry, state attorneys general have sought to recover costs from other industries, including firearms and pharmaceuticals, by partnering with the personal injury bar to sue whole industries. The growing trend of “regulation through litigation” presents more opportunities for government retention of personal injury lawyers on a contingent fee basis, and more opportunities for abuse. The personal injury bar’s opposition of “sunshine” legislation governing government retention of personal injury lawyers protects the multi-million-dollar contingent fees that the personal injury bar hopes to recover from future “regulation through litigation” partnerships with government.

What Can Be Done

Support “sunshine” legislation that requires legislative approval of most large contingent fee contacts between government and personal injury lawyers, requires personal injury lawyers to keep track of their time spent on government cases, and reasserts the legislature’s oversight of “regulation through litigation.”