Injury Lawyer's Fees May Get Him Disbarred
Rather than simply suing the Beverly Hills Supper Club for the insurance policy limits, Chesley fashioned a suit that included more than 1000 defendants; the entire aluminum electrical wire industry. The tactic paid handsomely; over $50 million.
Thanks to this and other similar lawsuits, the mass-tort era was born. But Chesley did not stop with the nightclub case. Incredibily, he was involved in several other big hits: breast implant litigation, the tobacco settlement, drug manufacturing cases, even the Pan Am crash over Lockerbie Scotland. The sky was indeed the limit.
Chesley, licensed in Ohio and Kentucky, makes our own Geoffrey Fieger look like a first year law student. And like Feiger, Chesley is getting tangled-up in disciplinary actions with the state bar where he practices.
The problem arose for Chesley when, in 1998, he allegedly muscled his way into the Fen-Phen drug product litigation in Kentucky. The Kentucky Bar Association investigated allegations that the attorneys involved in the case were misrepresenting the parameters of the settlement to their clients. Eventually, two of the lawyers involved went to prison and the judge on the case was forced off the Boone County Circuit Court bench.
The Kentucky Bar Association, having concluded a series of hearings, recommended this week that Chesley get disbarred and that he pay back more than $7.5 million in fees that it says were not within the scope of his fee agreement and therefore belongs to Chesney's Fen-Phen clients.
Allegedly, Chesney paid himself a multi-million dollar bonus after sweetening the lawyer fee portion of the drug settlement in an off-the-record meeting with the disgraced judge who presided over the case at the time.
The lawyer is appealing the recommendation to the Kentucky Supreme Court. Looks like whatever the outcome, greed apparently tainted a lot of talented legal professionals in the underlying product liability case.
Sad that this is a tale that is oft re-told in our time.