In December 1998, the private attorneys who battled Big Tobacco on behalf of the states got some very good news. An arbitration panel set up by the industry and the states agreed to pay them $8 billion -- a record legal fee.
Lawyers in the 46 states that eventually sued and settled will share the pot, but the biggest bucks are going to those who settled the first cases, in Mississippi, Florida and Texas. Nine Florida firms are splitting 54 percent of the take, a total of $3.4 billion. Each gets $205 million each over the next 25 years.
They are: Shelly Schlesinger, of the Law Offices of Sheldon J. Schlesinger, Fort Lauderdale; Bob Montgomery, of Montgomery and Larmoyeux, West Palm Beach; James Nance, of Nance, Cacciatore, Sisserson, Duryea and Hamilton, Melbourne; Mike Maher, of Maher, Gibson and Guiley, Orlando; Steven Yerrid, of Yerrid, Knopik and Valenzuala, Tampa; W.C. Gentry, of Gentry and Phillips, Jacksonville; Wayne Hogan, of Brown, Terrell, Hogan, Ellis, McClamma and Yegelwel, Jacksonville; David Fonvielle, of Fonvielle and Hinkle, Tallahassee; and Bob Kerrigan, of Kerrigan, Estess, Rankin and McLeod, Pensacola.
Two out-of-state firms, which led litigation against the industry for 40 states, including Florida, are splitting 46 percent -- $1.58 billion. They are: Richard Scruggs, of Scruggs, Millette, Lawson and Dent, Pascagoula, Miss; and Ron Motley and Joe Rice, of Ness, Motley, Loadholt, Richardson and Poole, Charleston, S.C.