Ron Motley, a trial lawyer who built a fortune out of high-risk cases against the asbestos and tobacco industries, leading the litigation team that helped bring about the largest civil settlement in American history — $246 billion — died on Thursday in Charleston, S.C. He was 68.
The cause was respiratory complications related to a long illness, said his friend and law partner of nearly 35 years, Joe Rice.
The son of a gas station owner and a schoolteacher, Mr. Motley rose to the heights of the legal profession, displaying a startling memory for detail and an ability to get his ideas across, connecting evidence and courtroom tactics seemingly on the fly. William S. Ohlemeyer, a lawyer who opposed him in a 1998 case in Indiana involving environmental tobacco smoke, said, “When you were in court and he was sitting behind you, you could almost feel him thinking.”
Mike Moore, the former Mississippi attorney general who hired Mr. Motley along with a local lawyer, Richard Scruggs, to help spearhead state efforts to sue tobacco companies over the health consequences of smoking in the early 1990s, said the choice to bring in Mr. Motley and Mr. Rice was easy: “We needed tough litigators who could help not only fund the case, but pick on some of the big national law firms we were going to fight.”
New York Times