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Ronald Motley, Legendary Lawyer, Dies
One of American history's most successful lawyers, Ronald L. Motley, the South Carolinian dynamo who tackled big tobacco and litigated $246 billion dollars from their pocket, the biggest settlement in US history, has recently died. He was done in despite incredible wealth as a lawyer, who won battles against asbestos manufacturer Manville and Altria Group Inc.'s Phillip Morris unit, from complications of organ failures at Roper Hospital in Charleston, S.C., at 68.

"Ron Motley changed the playing field for individuals seeking to hold companies accountable in this country," said Richard Harpootlian, a plaintiff lawyer who knew Motley for over 35 years. "He may well have been the best trial lawyer of his generation."

Not only his friends say so. William S. Ohlemeyer, previously an in-house lawyer for Phillip Morris, said Motley was a man to be reckoned with. "It was impressive to watch him operate. He was a spectacular trial lawyer who worked hard for his clients."

That crusade for his clients became the subject of the movie "The Insider" in which actor Bruce McGill plays Motley.



Part of his power as an attorney verged on the absurd, with his use of props, as when he wore a white lab coat and used a toy doctor's kit to cross-examine a company's medical expert.

"He could take very complicated liability evidence from corporation's own files and explain it to lay jurors in a simple and straightforward fashion. He despised it when people were hurt through corporate misconduct."

Not that he was allergic to big money. When not blasting big tobacco, he would hang out on his mansion  off Charleston, or perhaps romp on his $15 million yacht Themis, named after the Greek Goddess for Justice.

Motley leaves his wife, Stephanie and his daughter Jennifer Motley Lee.
08-25-2013

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