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Attorneys who helped the state of Oklahoma with its litigation against the tobacco companies will divide a $250 million fee. The Tobacco Fee Arbitration Panel voted unanimously to award the Oklahoma Private Outside Council (OPC) that amount on Wednesday, in accordance with the Oklahoma Fee Payment Agreement. The ruling comes after a fee arbitration hearing last March. Oklahoma will receive about $2 billion under the national tobacco settlement, a small amount when compared to what other states that participated in the agreement will receive. The arbitration panel decided, however, that the state’s contribution to the litigation was worth the considerable sum of $250 million. “Oklahoma is a small state when measured by the amount of projected payments�It is a large state, however, when measured by the extensive and effective undertakings that contributed not only to Oklahoma but also to the national litigation effort,” the decision says. It took two-and-a-half years to prosecute Oklahoma’s case against the tobacco companies. Almost 250 people, including four Oklahoma law firms and six national law firms, worked on the case. Though it was the 14th state to file its lawsuit, Oklahoma was the sixth state ready for trial. During the arbitration hearing, Richard F. Scruggs, of the Pascagoula, Miss., law firm Scruggs, Millette, Bozeman & Dent testified that his firm put most of its effort into tobacco cases from Oklahoma, Florida, and Mississippi. Scruggs was part of the national council and a chief negotiator of the tobacco settlement. He was unavailable for comment Wednesday evening. The panel based the fee determination in large part on how work by attorneys for the Oklahoma case affected the national litigation. The OPC de-privileged both the “Liggett 834″ and the “Bliley 39,000″ documents, which were used extensively by other states and on the national level, the decision says. The panel also noted the OPC’s willingness to comply with the defendants’ discovery requests. The OPC provided millions of documents to the defense, including 99 million pages of medical claims digitally encrypted to protect Medicaid recipients. The OPC was also unique in that it was the first to name tobacco industry law firms as defendants. “Suing these lawyers brought new levels of difficulty to the case,” the panel observed. Other states followed suit and began to name fellow attorneys as defendants. The risk in joining the tobacco litigation was also a factor that helped determine the fee. “The kind of risk involved in this litigation can destroy a law firm, and can create enormous stress and dissension within a firm,” the panel added. The sum of all of these factors was the $250 million fee, the panel wrote. “Under the totality of circumstances, we are convinced that [OPC] contributed significantly to pressures (through court rulings, disclosures, the boldness of their pleadings and most importantly, laboring tirelessly and successfully to make their case trial ready) which led to the MSA–more than has been demonstrated to us in prior proceedings.”

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