AVALA: Kudos to Ala. SC

John O'Brien Nov. 2, 2009, 3:00pm


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Legal Newsline) - Alabamians should thank the state Supreme Court for overturning more than $270 million in verdicts won by state Attorney General Troy King, the executive director of a legal reform group recently said.

Skip Tucker of Alabama Voters Against Lawsuit Abuse celebrated the last month's ruling, which made King 0 for 5 on suits that weren't settled. King hired private attorneys to sue more than 70 companies, alleging they have been ripping off the state's Medicaid program by overcharging for their prescription drugs.

"Basically, the court said nobody made the state buy the drugs and that the state had every right to do its own research and determine a price before it bought the drugs. That, of course, is the first rule of the marketplace," Tucker wrote in an editorial that appeared Monday in the Montgomery Advertiser.

"The court did not find fraud because there was no fraud to find."

In his own editorial, King had criticized the amount of time it took the Court to reach a conclusion. Jury verdicts against AstraZeneca, Novartis Pharmaceutical and GlaxoSmithKline resulted in awards of $215 million, $33 million and $80.9 million, respectively.

The AstraZeneca verdict was reduced to $160 million before the Supreme Court overturned it.

Attorney Jere Beasley called the Supreme Court's decision "difficult to understand.

"In refusing to allow oral argument, the Court did not allow members of the news media who had not attended the trial in 2008 to hear first hand how bad the conduct of these companies was," he said.

"The AstraZeneca case had been pending for so long that even the few members of the news media who attended the trial against AstraZeneca may have forgotten how strong the State's case really was."

He also said he would ask the Court to reconsider its decisions.

Tucker wrote that King made three mistakes in filing the suits.

"The lawsuits apparently never should have been brought; he mistakenly hired top trial lawyer Jere Beasley to prosecute them; and he and Beasley put enormous political pressure on the court in hopes it would knuckle under and it did not," Tucker said.

Tucker added that the Court's decisions benefit Alabamians seeking "decent" jobs by helping the state's business climate.

"The cases had national implications. Alabama was named the original 'tort hell' by Forbes magazine in 1996 because a trial lawyer-owned Supreme Court upheld shameful, shameless punitive damages," he wrote.

"Everybody is watching. In fact, the Washington Times said the Alabama case has 'major national implications' because some states would like to use these same type lawsuits to bleed pharmaceutical and other companies dry."

AVALA says the State has received nearly $100 million from settlements in some of the cases so far. Of that, $56.7 million have gone to the general fund, $26 million have gone to the attorneys and $17 million is in an escrow account.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

More News