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.” 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.”
Joe was recognized by some of the nation’s best-regarded defense lawyers as being “the smartest dealmaker they ever sat across the table from,” Thomson Reuters has reported. Professor Samuel Issacharoff of the New York University School of Law, a well-known professor and expert in class actions and complex litigation, has commented that he is “the best strategic thinker on the end stages of litigation that I’ve ever seen.”
Since beginning to practice law in 1979, Joe has continued to reinforce his reputation as a skillful negotiator, including through his involvement structuring some of the most significant resolutions of asbestos liabilities on behalf of those injured by asbestos‐related products. He 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.
Most recently, Joe served as one of the lead negotiators in the $15 billion Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Fraud class action settlement for 2.0-liter vehicles, the largest auto-related consumer class action settlement in U.S. history, as well as the 3.0-liter settlement. He also has led negotiations on behalf of thousands of women in the transvaginal mesh litigation that has five MDLs pending in the state of West Virginia. Joe is a member of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee for the Lipitor® multidistrict litigation and the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee for In re General Motors LLC Ignition Switch Litigation.
Other notable litigation and cases that have benefited from Joe’s involvement include:
BP Oil Spill:
Joe served as a co-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.
Joe serves on the Board of Advisors for Emory University's Institute for Complex Litigation and Mass Claims, which facilitates bipartisan discussion of ways to improve the civil justice system through the hosting of judicial seminars, bar conferences, academic programs, and research. 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.
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