South Carolina

Joseph F. Rice
Founding Member

Joseph F. Rice

Joe Rice, Motley Rice co-founder, is recognized as a skillful and innovative negotiator of complex litigation settlements, having served as the lead negotiator in some of the largest civil actions our courts have seen in the last 20 years. Corporate Legal Times reported that national defense counsel and legal scholars described Joe as one of the nation's “five most feared and respected plaintiffs’ lawyers in corporate America.” He was cited time after time as one of the toughest, sharpest and hardest-working litigators they faced. As the article notes, "For all his talents as a shrewd negotiator ... Rice has earned most of his respect from playing fair and remaining humble.” The American Lawyer described Joe in 2006 as "one of the shrewdest businessmen practicing law.”

Joe negotiates for the firm's clients at all levels, including securities and consumer fraud, anti-terrorism, human rights, environmental, medical drugs and devices, as well as catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases. He is a member of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee for the Lipitor® multidistrict litigation and a member of the Plaintiffs' Executive Committee for the In re General Motors LLC Ignition Switch Litigation.

BP Oil Spill:

Joe served as the lead negotiator for the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in reaching the two settlements with BP, one of which is the largest civil class action settlement in U.S. history. The Economic and Property Damages Rule 23 Class Action Settlement is estimated to make payments totaling between $7.8 billion and $18 billion to class members. Joe was also one of the lead negotiators of the $1.028 billion settlement reached between the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee and Halliburton Energy Services, Inc., for Halliburton’s role in the disaster.


Joe held a crucial role in executing strategic mediations and/or resolutions on behalf of 56 families of 9/11 victims who opted out of the government-created September 11 Victim Compensation Fund. In addition to providing answers, accountability and recourse to victims’ families, the resulting settlements with multiple defendants shattered a settlement matrix developed and utilized for decades. The litigation also helped provide public access to evidence uncovered for the trial. 


As lead private counsel for 26 jurisdictions, including numerous State Attorneys General, Joe was integral to the crafting and negotiating of the landmark Master Settlement Agreement, in which the tobacco industry agreed to reimburse states for smoking-related health costs. This remains the largest civil settlement in U.S. history.


Joe held leadership and negotiating roles involving the bankruptcies of several large organizations, including AWI, Federal Mogul, Johns Manville, Celotex, Garlock, W.R. Grace, Babcock & Wilcox, U.S. Gypsum, Owens Corning and Pittsburgh Corning. He has also worked on numerous Trust Advisory Committees. Today, he maintains a critical role in settlements involving asbestos manufacturers emerging from bankruptcy and has been recognized for his work in structuring significant resolutions in complex personal injury litigation for asbestos liabilities on behalf of victims injured by asbestos-related products. Joe has served as co-chair of Perrin Conferences’ Asbestos Litigation Conference, the largest national asbestos-focused conference.

Joe is often sought by investment funds for guidance on litigation strategies to increase shareholder value, enhance corporate governance reforms and recover assets. He was an integral part of the shareholder derivative action against Omnicare, Inc., Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust v. Gemunder, which resulted in a significant settlement for shareholders as well as new corporate governance policies for the corporation. 

In 1999 and 2000, he served on the faculty at Duke University School of Law as a Senior Lecturing Fellow, and taught classes on the art of negotiating at the University of South Carolina School of Law, Duke University School of Law and Charleston School of Law. 

In 2013, he and the firm created the Ronald L. Motley Scholarship Fund at The University of South Carolina School of Law in memory and honor of co-founding member and friend, Ron Motley.

Awards and Accolades:

Best Lawyers®
2013  “Lawyer of the Year” Charleston, SC: mass tort litigation/class actions – plaintiffs
2007–present  The Best Lawyers in America®: mass tort litigation/class actions – plaintiffs

Benchmark Plaintiff
2012–2013  National “Litigation Star”: mass tort/product liability
2012–2014   South Carolina “Litigation Star”: environmental, mass tort/product liability

2008–2014  South Carolina Super Lawyers® list

SC Lawyers Weekly
2012  Leadership in Law Award

University of South Carolina School of Law Alumni Association
2011  Platinum Compleat Lawyer Award

The Legal 500 United States
2011–2012  Mass tort and class action: plaintiff representation – toxic tort

The National Trial Lawyers
2010  Top 100 Trial Lawyers™ – South Carolina

National Association of Attorneys General
1998  President’s Award

MUSC Children’s Hospital
2010 Johnnie Dodds Award: in honor of his longtime support of the annual Bulls Bay Golf Challenge Fundraiser and continued work on behalf of our community’s children

University of South Carolina
2011 Garnet Award: in recognition of Joe and his family for their passion for and devotion to Gamecock athletics

SC Junior Golf Association Programs
2011 Tom Fazio Service to Golf Award: in recognition of promotional efforts

Community Involvement:

Dee Norton Lowcountry Children’s Center, Co-chair for inaugural Campaign for the Next Child 

First Tee of Greater Charleston, Board of Advisors


American Association for Justice
American Bar Association
American Inns of Court
American Constitution Society for Law and Policy
South Carolina Association for Justice

* The Best Lawyers in America® 2014 (Copyright 2013 by Woodward/White, Inc., of Aiken, S.C.)

* Please remember that every case is different. Although it endorses this lawyer, The Legal 500 United States is not a Motley Rice client. Any result we achieve for one client in one matter does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients.