US firm scores victory for health insurer as tobacco giants are forced to fork out
Dewey Ballantine has won nearly $38m (£26.7m) in fees following its landmark victory for New York's largest health insurer Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield in a claim against various tobacco giants. Judge Jack Weinstein held that the tobacco companies, which included Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, BAT Industries and Brown & Williamson, were responsible for paying the fees incurred by Empire. The insurance company claimant won around $18m (£12.7m) last June when a jury decided that the tobacco companies had misled the public concerning the dangers of smoking. It was the first victory by an insurance company in litigation to recover costs associated with insuring smokers. The tobacco companies had advanced the argument that the legal fees should not exceed the amount paid out to the insurance company. According to Judge Weinstein, the fees requested were representative of the "uncommon skill" with which Dewey handled the case. He added that the case had established a new theory of legal liability. He is understood to have factored the time and skill necessary to argue the case, the complexity of the case and, unusually, the benefit to society, into his decision. The $38m covered almost all of the 144,000 billable hours spent on the case during the three years it took to be resolved. Dewey's team comprised four partners - Paul Bschorr, Joseph Angland, Martha Talley and Vincent FitzPatrick - plus associate support. Bschorr said: "We're particularly pleased that the court recognised the hard work we performed on behalf of our client on this important case." Philip Morris took the lead defendant role, represented by Arnold & Porter partners Peter Bleakley and Murray Garnick.