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Attorney David Boies has just convinced a federal judge to split Microsoft. So what’s he going to do next? He’ll be taking on the nation’s HMOs in Miami. Boies, the New York lawyer who was the Justice Department’s lead outside counsel in the Microsoft antitrust case, and famed tobacco lawyer Richard Scruggs of Mississippi last week were named lead counsel in what may prove to be the nation’s next massive lawsuit. The case was filed on behalf of millions of patients whose health maintenance organizations are accused of encouraging doctors to steer them toward less costly treatment, even when that treatment wasn’t the most appropriate. Scruggs, an anti-tobacco lawyer recently portrayed in the movie “The Insider,” and Boies are among dozens of lawyers — and 41 law firms nationwide — suing Humana Inc. and about a half-dozen other HMOs in the class-action case, which seeks to change the way HMOs operate. No damages have been listed yet. The case “could change the way health care is provided in this country,” said Miami lawyer Mike Eidson, who on Thursday was appointed one of three local liaison counsels on the suit. The appointments are part of an effort by U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno to streamline the dozens of cases filed across the country. Earlier this year, the Federal Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation consolidated a number of cases and transferred that consolidated case to Miami under Moreno. On Thursday, before 50 or so lawyers, Moreno approved an organization devised by the plaintiffs. In addition to approving Scruggs and Boies as lead counsel, Moreno approved the liaison counsels: Eidson; Eidson’s partner Dean Colson; Hollywood, Fla., lawyer James Fox Miller; and Miami lawyer Aaron Podhurst. The four liaisons will keep track of day-to-day events in the case and deal with the national media. Another Miami law firm also is involved with the case, but on the defense side. Adorno & Zeder is the local liaison to a Washington, D.C., firm, O’Melveny & Myers, which is representing Humana. Moreno also approved a 12-law firm steering committee, which includes Russ Herman of Herman Middleton Casey & Kitchens, a national consumer-law firm based in Atlanta that filed one of the original class actions with Eidson’s firm, Colson Hicks Eidson. The judge’s next decision may be whether to consolidate the current lawsuit against Humana with yet more suits against other HMOs. “We’ll probably seek to consolidate them, because the issues are so similar,” said Eidson. The Humana case alone was filed on behalf of 6.2 million HMO subscribers. If consolidated, the case will involve some 80 million subscribers. Complicating the case is a similar suit brought by doctors and hospitals against the HMOs. That suit is known as the “providers” case, while the suit filed by the subscribers is commonly referred to the “subscribers” case. The two groups decided Thursday to keep their cases separate but to share discovery. Despite the complexity of the case, Moreno injected a note of levity into Thursday’s hearing, according to one of the attorneys present. Looking down at his computer screen, he cracked to Boies — fresh off his win in the Microsoft case — “Is my screen going to work today?”

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