By Andy Owens
Published Aug. 22, 2013
Mount Pleasant attorney Ron Motley, who took on the Saudi Royal family, who won cash for asbestos victims and whose work against the tobacco industry was dramatized in an Oscar-nominated film, died Wednesday at age 68.
In an emailed statement this morning, Motley Rice co-founder Joe Rice called Motley “a true giant of the legal profession” and said he was a trailblazer, innovator and master of the courtroom whose courage was unmatched.
Rice said Motley had bottomless compassion for those who had been wronged. Motley was known for his dramatic turns in court and his ability to put defense attorneys on edge, regardless of the size of the defendant. That courtroom demeanor and gritty style of litigation was captured in the 1999 film The Insider, which starred Russell Crowe and Al Pacino.
The film depicted the story of tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand, who eventually moved to Charleston. The case resulted in the largest civil settlement in U.S. history.
In 2002, Motley served as lead counsel for the 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism in a lawsuit filed by more than 6,500 family members, survivors and victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, according to his company biography. The lawsuit’s goal was to go after financial backers of al-Qaida, including individuals, banks, corporations and nonprofits that provided resources and money to the terror organization.
More recently, Motley Rice served as legal counsel in the BP Deepwater Horizon litigation, after an explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico claimed lives and livelihoods on the Gulf Coast.
“Ron’s passing is an incalculable loss for all those he devoted his life’s work to, whether it was people harmed from asbestos exposure, state attorneys general taking on Big Tobacco, 9/11 family members seeking to bankrupt terrorism, or anyone else who wanted his or her day in court to redress injustice,” Rice said. “Ron proudly lived life as a trial lawyer.”