U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform executive Bryan Quigley said the rise of contingency fee lawsuits being filed by private lawyers on behalf of counties and cities will create “tension” between localities and state attorneys general.
Quigley said private plaintiffs’ lawyers are now taking “the same model they perfected” in similar lawsuits filed on behalf of state attorneys general to local cities and counties. The model is simple: private lawyers sue on behalf of local governments on contingency fee contracts and are entitled to a cut of any settlement or judgment. These types of local cases are on the rise. A Texas county administrator recently said he’d been pitched by 10 to 15 law firms looking for these contracts since October.
The rise of these local cases can complicate litigation, Quigley said, particularly when a state’s attorney general “may want to do a universal settlement, but it’s hanging on all of these local cases.” This tension is beginning to play out. The Tennessee Attorney General recently filed a motion saying localities cannot “retain outside counsel without approval from the attorney general and the governor.”