Edmondson: Poultry lawsuit outside counsel won't collect fees in 2010

Chris Rizo Feb. 3, 2010, 2:00pm

Drew Edmondson (D)

TULSA, Okla. (Legal Newsline)-Hired attorneys representing Oklahoma in a mammoth lawsuit against large-scale poultry producers this year won't recoup a dime of their expenses related to the case, state Attorney General Drew Edmondson said.

The federal lawsuit, filed in 2005, against 13 poultry companies alleges the companies polluted the Illinois River Watershed by allowing bird waste from their facilities to flow into the 1 million-acre watershed.

In an appearance before the Muskogee (Okla.) Phoenix editorial board, the Democratic attorney general and gubernatorial candidate said the outside counsel in the case will not collect any fees this year.

"Any cause of action where the state could recoup a lot of money or the lawyers could get paid a lot have been removed from the case," Edmondson was quoted Wednesday by the newspaper as saying. "It's just not available in the causes of action that are left (in the lawsuit)."

The three law firms representing the state in the case were hired on a contingency fee basis. Edmondson said the firms have between $25 million and $30 million invested in the lawsuit. He said if they lose the case, they are out that money.

"Under the contract, the state of Oklahoma doesn't owe them anything, the poultry companies don't owe them anything and they will have sacrificed mightily to try to protect the waters of eastern Oklahoma," he was quoted as saying.

The state is represented by Tulsa, Okla.-based Riggs, Abney, Neal, Turpen, Orbison & Lewis, Tulsa-based Miller Keffer & Bullock and Mt. Pleasant, S.C.-based Motley Rice. The firms collectively stand to get 33.3 percent to 50 percent of the monetary damages awarded to the state.

The attorney general said that the only taxpayer money used on the case has come from lawyers in his office contributing to the case, but they received no extra pay for their participation.

Edmondson told the newspaper that the lawsuit -- whatever the outcome -- will be appealed to the 10 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizell will hear closing arguments Feb. 11.

Defendants in the lawsuit are: Tyson Foods Inc., Tyson Poultry Inc., Tyson Chicken Inc., Cobb-Vantress Inc., Cal-Maine Foods Inc., Cargill Inc., Cargill Turkey Production LLC., George's Inc., George's Farms Inc., Peterson Farms, Simmons Foods Inc., Cal-Maine Farms Inc. and Willow Brook Foods Inc.

The case is State of Oklahoma v. Tyson Foods Inc., No. 4:05-cv-00329.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at href="mailto:chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com">chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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Organizations in this Story

State of Oklahoma
2300 N Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

Tyson Foods
2200 West Don Tyson Parkway
Springdale, AR 72762

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