Lucent agreed to pay $350 million in August 2002 after defending itself for six years against a class-action lawsuit in Madison County Circuit Court claiming the company leased phones to customers far more expensively than they could be bought elsewhere.
The settlement did not require the Murray Hill, N.J.-based AT&T spinoff to acknowledge any wrongdoing but let people who were wronged collect up to $80 per leased phone.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the 44 plaintiffs’ attorneys in the case have collected $84.5 million in fees and expenses, while the plaintiffs who leased the equipment have claimed $8.4 million of the settlement so far.
The newspaper cited Lucent as the source for the figures. Lead plaintiffs’ lawyer Stephen Tillery, who settled the case, disputes Lucent’s numbers.
“It is my belief that this distortion is part of their plan to create support in the media for federal legislation which would effectively ban state class actions,” Tillery told the newspaper in a written statement. He declined to be interviewed by the newspaper and did not immediately return a message left at his office Wednesday by The Associated Press.
Madison County has developed a national reputation for being particularly friendly to class-action lawsuits and is cited often by critics of them as an example of their excesses.
Tillery also won a $10.1 billion class-action verdict last year against Philip Morris Inc. over light cigarettes. Madison County Judge Nicholas Byron awarded nearly $1.8 billion in lawyers’ fees and expenses in that case.
Philip Morris has appealed the verdict to the Illinois Supreme Court.