Lawsuit that Led to Mississippi Tort Lawyer Scruggs’ Downfall Settled

August 21, 2008

A settlement has been reached in a civil lawsuit that led to a bribery conviction for Mississippi-based anti-tobacco lawyer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs and several associates, an attorney said.

Oxford attorney Grady Tollison did not disclose the terms of the recent agreement.

Tollison represented the law firm of Jones, Funderburg, Sessums, Patterson & Lee when the firm sued Scruggs and others in March 2007 for a bigger share of $26.5 million in legal fees from Hurricane Katrina insurance cases.

In the lawsuit, the firm claimed it was pushed out of the Scruggs Katrina Group — a coalition of lawyers that sued on behalf of storm victims — and was only offered a fraction of what was owed them.

Scruggs, his son and three others were charged in November with attempting to bribe Circuit Court Judge Henry Lackey for a favorable ruling in the case. Lackey reported the bribery attempt to federal authorities, and all five men eventually pleaded guilty to a variety of charges.

Dickie Scruggs is serving a five-year sentence for his role in the scheme. His son, Zach Scruggs, is serving 14 months on a lesser charge of knowing about a felony and failing to report it.

Others listed in the civil lawsuit were the Barrett Law Office, Nutt & McAlister and Lovelace law firms, which were all part of the Scruggs Katrina Group when it was formed.

Tollison said his client also settled with the Nutt & McAlister Law Firm. He said he expects to go to trial against the Barrett and Lovelace firms.

“We’ve attempted to settled with them,” Tollison said. “But my feeling is, we’re headed for trial.”

Circuit Court Judge William Coleman ruled in April that the Jones firm is entitled to fees and possibly punitive damages since the lawsuit led to the attempted bribe.

Last week, the Mississippi Supreme Court granted a hearing to decide whether the lawsuit should go to arbitration and a temporary stay on all proceedings in the lawsuit.

The trial against Barrett and Lovelace is currently set for November, but that could change due to the Supreme Court’s ruling last week.

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