“Country Lawyer” Who Pummeled Big Tobacco Is Targeting Opioid Industry

By on December 26, 2018

December 26, 2018

The attorney who spearheaded both the 1998 multi-state settlement with big tobacco and the settlement with BP over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is now taking on the major opioid manufacturers and distributors. From what 60 Minutes host Bill Whitaker calls his “command center” in a beach house on the Florida panhandle, former Democratic Mississippi attorney general Mike Moore is coordinating an effort involving  more than 30 states and many of about 1500 cities and counties that have filed their own lawsuits. It would be a mistake, however, to see this case through the lens of conventional mass-tort-case politics, where the back story has the defense side Republican and the plaintiffs Democrat. In this matter, a disproportionate share of the alleged victims are probably from Trump strongholds, and the Ohio attorney general who hired Moore is a Republican who will shortly become the state’s governor. (Ohio is said to be losing up to $5 billion and 6,000 people a year to the opioid epidemic.) The targets in this campaign, which Moore readily acknowledges is being mounted in the court of public opinion as well as the courtroom, are both manufacturers and distributors, including McKesson Corp, which have far and away the deeper pockets. The distributors, as Moore tells 60 Minutes, say things like, “We’re just truck drivers,” but Moore won’t have it.“If you’ve got walking around sense and you care,” he says, “you’re gonna check before you send nine million pills to a little, bitty county in West Virginia or Mississippi or Louisiana or Ohio.” Moore, like any good tort lawyer, sounds both indignant and driven, and his logic is relentless. Speaking with a southern drawl somewhere between Bill Clinton and Lyndon Johnson, he appears to be calling on the decency of his adversaries as he asks them to settle. “They would be taking the responsibility in helping solve a public health epidemic in this country, and years later people would look at them and say, ‘You know what? Those guys stepped up to the plate. They made some mistakes but they stepped up to the plate. ” Now, if they don’t want to do that, he adds, “we can go to trial. And we can take all the evidence we have and we can do our best to try to persuade juries to return large verdicts against them.”

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60 Minutes

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