Yesterday, the legal industry lost one of our greats: Ronald L. Motley of Motley Rice LLC. Today, we remember the trails he blazed and the passion, humor and inspiring skill he brought to the courtroom. All of us at PMP wish to express our condolences to Ron’s family and to our brothers and sisters in the industry that he affected so deeply.

When Ron Motley tried a case, he truly represented his clients, fighting with the same zeal and compassion he would if he himself were a plaintiff.

“He despised it when people were hurt through corporate misconduct,” said former partner Jack McConnell, “and he thrived on getting them justice.”

Ron’s intensity was a force that was recognized by not only his partners and peers, but his opponents as well. While Motley brought personal dedication to his clients, he embodied fierceness to his opposing counsel.

“He was a spectacular trial lawyer who worked hard for his clients,” said William S. Ohlemeyer, former counsel to Phillip Morris in the legendary mass-tort trial depicted in the film The Insider, “It was impressive to watch him operate in the courtroom.”

Impressive, indeed – and sometimes even humorous. Motley was also well-known for the stunts he pulled in court, entertaining jurors with props and testing the patience of his peers. Yet Ron’s reputation remained formidable despite this sense of whimsy.

“Ron Motley changed the playing field for individuals seeking to hold companies accountable in this country,” said Columbia, SC-based attorney Richard Harpootlian, a contemporary of Motley’s for nearly four decades.

Harpootlian refers to the pioneering accomplishments Ron made in mass-tort litigation and his role in the largest civil settlement in United States history. Motley first made a name for himself in the mid-1970s, when he became the first to file suit against Johns Manville Corp., a manufacturer of building products that were laden with asbestos. Later in the 1990s, Motley focused his attention on tobacco makers such as the Phillip Morris unit of Altria Group Inc. He recovered billions for his clients, including the record-smashing $276 billion settlement he obtained for victims of tobacco companies.

Ron was born in 1944, and grew up the son of a gas-station owner in North Charleston, South Carolina, to become one of the legal profession’s most feared plaintiff attorneys. He died yesterday August 22, 2013, of complications from organ failure at Medical University of South Carolina Medical Center in Charleston at age 68. As the PMP family remembers Ron, we reflect on one of Harpootlian’s sentiments:

“He may well have been the best trial lawyer of his generation.”

Read more about Ron’s life in The Washington Post

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