The Big Four Who Battle Big Tobacco

Plaintiffs' attorneys Scruggs, Motley, Wilner, and Gauthier have the industry on the run

On the morning of May 7, even a first-day paralegal could have smelled trouble at the tobacco talks in Dallas. At a strategy session for 13 of the state attorneys general suing the industry, courtroom warriors Ronald L. Motley and Norwood S. Wilner recounted their recent loss in a Florida suit seeking damages for the estate of a smoker who died of lung cancer. The states' suits seeking to recover smoking-related Medicaid costs, the lawyers warned, won't be slam dunks. "I'm the sumbitch that's got to try the cases, and let me tell you, it's going to be hard to win," Motley said.

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