Appeals court reopens case involving payment to law firm

Published 01-25-2019

0 Ratings

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - An appeals court on Friday ordered more proceedings in a legal fight involving Kentucky's governor and two of his political rivals over a $4 million payment to a law firm for negotiating a settlement on behalf of the state with the maker of OxyContin.

A three-judge Kentucky Court of Appeals panel ruled unanimously that a summary judgment previously granted in the case was "premature" because it didn't allow more information to be reviewed. The ruling returned the case to a lower court, where it could have implications in this year's governor's race.

"In this case, there was no opportunity to take discovery," Judge Christopher Shea Nickell said in writing for the appeals court panel.

"Since there was no discovery, obviously there was no 'ample opportunity to complete discovery.' ... Thus, we do not even reach the question of whether there were any material issues of fact precluding summary judgment," he added.

The ruling keeping the case alive drew quick praise from Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's administration. Bevin's general counsel, Steve Pitt, said additional information could shed light on why Kentucky's lawsuit against a large pharmaceutical company was settled "for pennies on the dollar."

The case also involves Attorney General Andy Beshear, who already has declared himself a candidate for governor as a Democrat. Bevin and Beshear have been embroiled in several lawsuits since they took office. Bevin filed papers Friday to run for a second term.

Beshear's predecessor, former Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway, settled the case against Purdue Pharma, makers of the addictive opioid-based prescription painkiller OxyContin, for $24 million at the end of 2015, just a few days before he left office.

Conway was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2015, losing the election to Bevin.

Beshear spokesman Terry Sebastian said Friday the appeals court decision "did not decide the merits of the case."

Beshear had no involvement in settling the Purdue Pharma case, Sebastian said, and he said the AG's office has administered settlement funds in a "transparent manner" - including $8 million provided to 15 drug treatment facilities statewide in 2016.

Kentucky sued Purdue Pharma in 2007. The case languished in the courts for years before the settlement.

As part of its contract with the state, the Louisville-based law firm then known as Dolt, Thompson, Shepherd & Kinney was owe

Beshear's predecessor, former Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway, settled the case against Purdue Pharma, makers of the addictive opioid-based prescription painkiller OxyContin, for $24 million at the end of 2015, just a few days before he left office.

Conway was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2015, losing the election to Bevin.

Beshear spokesman Terry Sebastian said Friday the appeals court decision "did not decide the merits of the case."

Beshear had no involvement in settling the Purdue Pharma case, Sebastian said, and he said the AG's office has administered settlement funds in a "transparent manner" - including $8 million provided to 15 drug treatment facilities statewide in 2016.

Kentucky sued Purdue Pharma in 2007. The case languished in the courts for years before the settlement.

As part of its contract with the state, the Louisville-based law firm then known as Dolt, Thompson, Shepherd & Kinney was owed 16 percent of that settlement, plus expenses. But the contract had been allowed to expire for months prior to the settlement.

Andy Beshear, who replaced Conway as attorney general, awarded the firm a new contract to correct the mistake. Conway then joined that firm, which changed its name to Dolt, Thompson, Shepherd & Conway.

Bevin has criticized the contract, accusing Beshear and Conway of colluding to award his new firm a multimillion-dollar payout on his way out of office. Beshear said he was just honoring a valid contract the state had with a private business, noting both the attorney general's office and the law firm had continued to operate as if the contract were in place even though it had expired.

Conway said by phone Friday that he's been "walled off" from the law firm's involvement in the case since joining the firm.

"I'm very comfortable that I acted appropriately," he

Beshear spokesman Terry Sebastian said Friday the appeals court decision "did not decide the merits of the case."

Beshear had no involvement in settling the Purdue Pharma case, Sebastian said, and he said the AG's office has administered settlement funds in a "transparent manner" - including $8 million provided to 15 drug treatment facilities statewide in 2016.

Kentucky sued Purdue Pharma in 2007. The case languished in the courts for years before the settlement.

As part of its contract with the state, the Louisville-based law firm then known as Dolt, Thompson, Shepherd & Kinney was owed 16 percent of that settlement, plus expenses. But the contract had been allowed to expire for months prior to the settlement.

Andy Beshear, who replaced Conway as attorney general, awarded the firm a new contract to correct the mistake. Conway then joined that firm, which changed its name to Dolt, Thompson, Shepherd & Conway.

Bevin has criticized the contract, accusing Beshear and Conway of colluding to award his new firm a multimillion-dollar payout on his way out of office. Beshear said he was just honoring a valid contract the state had with a private business, noting both the attorney general's office and the law firm had continued to operate as if the contract were in place even though it had expired.

Conway said by phone Friday that he's been "walled off" from the law firm's involvement in the case since joining the firm.

"I'm very comfortable that I acted appropriately," he said in a phone interview. "And I'm certain additional discovery would show that."

Tyler Thompson, the firm's registered agent, has said Conway did not profit from the settlement when he joined the firm.

Conway said it's his understanding the case stems from a "clerical error" regarding the lapse of the law firm's contract with the state. He said the firm will provide "whatever information is necessary" in the case.

Conway also defended the Purdue Pharma settlement, saying he was comfortable with the amount given "significant hurdles" the state faced.

"There were some problems with our case," he said. "There were some issues that were going to become appellate issues, and we did not see a likelihood of recovery anytime in the near future."

No comments found. Sign up or Login to rate and review content.