OKLAHOMA CITY -- The three law firms hired by Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson to sue "big chicken" look set to collect plenty of golden eggs.
Federal court judge Gregory Frizzell ruled last week against the 14 Arkansas-based poultry producers that had challenged the attorney general's contingency fee agreement with the lawyers.
Edmondson sued the 14 companies in 2005, claiming they had polluted the waterways of northeastern Oklahoma with waste from their chicken farms in northwest Arkansas. Defendants include Tyson Foods, Cargill Inc. and Simmons Foods.
Earlier this year the defendants filed a motion with Judge Frizzell to scrap the legal-fee agreement, arguing it would enrich Edmondson's favorite lawyers, LegalNewsLine reported.
The producers argued that the attorney general's contract with Miller & Keffer, LLP; Riggs, Abney, Neal, Turpen, Orbison & Lewis; and Motley Rice could net them up to one-third of any financial award to Oklahoma. That's expected to be at least several million dollars.
The companies bolstered their argument by pointing to a recent Appeals Court ruling that prevented the state from using a damages award from a Federal Superfund lawsuit to pay legal fees.
Edmondson countered that the contract was an integral part of the lawsuit, NWAonline reported. "It is entirely likely this litigation would not be able to continue without the (contingency-fee arrangement)," he said.
Frizzell also ruled that Edmondson didn't have to first take his pollution complaints to a bi-state commission. But he gave the producers a consolation prize by dismissing part of Edmondson's suit attempting to apply two Oklahoma laws in Arkansas.
Last week's win was Edmondson's second in the past two months of the drawn-out dispute. In early May, LegalNewsLine reported, Frizzell booted Oklahoma Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's attempt to intervene in the suit.