Founding Member

Ronald L. Motley

  • (1944–2013)

  • "I will stand for my client's rights—
    I am a trial lawyer.

Ron Motley (1944 – 2013) fought for greater justice, accountability and recourse, and has been widely recognized as one of America’s most accomplished and skilled trial lawyers. During a career that spanned more than four decades, his persuasiveness before a jury and ability to break new legal and evidentiary ground brought to justice two once-invincible giant industries whose malfeasance took the lives of millions of Americans—asbestos and tobacco.

Armed with a combination of legal and trial skills, personal charisma, nose-to-the-grindstone hard work and record of success, Ron built Motley Rice into one of the nation’s largest plaintiffs’ law firms.

Noted for his role in spearheading the historic litigation against the tobacco industry, Ron served as lead trial counsel for 26 State Attorneys General in the lawsuits. His efforts to uncover corporate and scientific wrongdoing resulted in the Master Settlement Agreement, the largest civil settlement in U.S. history and in which the tobacco industry agreed to reimburse states for smoking-related health care costs.

Through his pioneering discovery and collaboration, Ron revealed asbestos manufacturers and the harmful and disabling effects of occupational, environmental and household asbestos exposure. He represented thousands of asbestos victims and achieved numerous trial breakthroughs, including the class actions and mass consolidations of Cimino, et al. v. Raymark, et al. (U.S.D.C. TX); Abate, et al. v. ACandS, et al. (Baltimore); and In re Asbestos Personal Injury Cases (Mississippi).

In 2002, Ron once again advanced cutting-edge litigation as lead counsel for In re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, MDL #1570, a lawsuit filed by more than 6,500 family members, survivors and those who lost their lives. The suit seeks justice and ultimately bankruptcy for al Qaeda’s financiers, including many individuals, banks, corporations and charities that provided resources and monetary aid. He also served as lead counsel in numerous individual aviation security liability and damages cases under the In re September 11 Litigation filed against the aviation and aviation security industries by victims’ families.

Ron brought the landmark case of Oran Almog v. Arab Bank against the alleged financial sponsors of Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Israel and was a firm leader in the BP Deepwater Horizon litigation and claims efforts involving people and businesses in Gulf Coast communities suffering as a result of the oil spill. Two settlements were reached with BP, one of which is the largest civil class action settlement in U.S. history.

Ron served on the AAJ Board of Governors from 1977 to 2012 and was chair of its Asbestos Litigation Group from 1978 to 2012. In 2002, Ron founded the Mark Elliott Motley Foundation, Inc., in loving memory of his son to help meet the health, education and welfare needs of children and young adults in the Charleston, S.C. community.


Ron authored or co-authored more than two dozen publications, including:

  • "Decades of Deception: Secrets of Lead, Asbestos and Tobacco" (Trial Magazine, October 1999)

  • "Asbestos Disease Among Railroad Workers: ‘Legacy of the Laggin’ Wagon’" (Trial Magazine, December 1981)

  • "Asbestos and Lung Cancer" (New York State Journal of Medicine, June 1980; Volume 80: No.7, New York State Medical Association, New York)

  • "Occupational Disease and Products Liability Claims" (South Carolina Trial Lawyers Bulletin, September and October 1976)

Featured in:

  • Shackelford, Susan. "Major Leaguer" (South Carolina Super Lawyers, April 2008)

  • Senior, Jennifer. "A Nation Unto Himself" (The New York Times, March 2004)

  • Freedman, Michael. "Turning Lead into Gold," (Forbes, May 2001)

  • Zegart, Dan. Civil Warriors: The Legal Siege on the Tobacco Industry (Delacorte Press, 2000)

  • Ansen, David. "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (Newsweek, 1999)

  • Mann, Michael & Roth, Eric. "The Insider" (Blue Lion Entertainment, November 5, 1999)

  • Brenner, Marie. "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (Vanity Fair, May 1996)

  • Reisig, Robin. "The Man Who Took on Manville" (The American Lawyer, January 1983)


J.D., University of South Carolina School of Law, 1971

B.A., University of South Carolina, 1966


American Association for Justice

American Bar Association

Civil Justice Foundation

Inner Circle of Advocates

International Academy of Trial Lawyers

South Carolina Association for Justice

South Carolina Bar Association

Awards and Accolades

2010 Lifetime Achievement Award
2007 David S. Shrager President’s Award
1998 Harry M. Philo Trial Lawyer of the Year

2012 inducted into Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame
2011 The Roundtable: America’s 100 Most Influential Trial Lawyers

1993–2013 Mass tort litigation/class actions – plaintiffs; personal injury litigation – plaintiffs; product liability litigation – plaintiffs

2012–2013 National “Litigation Star”: civil rights/human rights, mass tort/product liability, securities
2012–2013 South Carolina “Litigation Star”: human rights, product liability, securities, toxic tort

2011–2013 Mass tort and class action: plaintiff representation – toxic tort
*Although it endorses this lawyer, The Legal 500 United States is not a Motley Rice client.

Chambers USA 2007, 2010–2012 Product liability and mass torts: plaintiffs.
“...An accomplished trial lawyer and a formidable opponent.”

2008–2013 South Carolina Super Lawyers® list
2008 Top 10 South Carolina Super Lawyers list
2008, 2009, 2011, 2012 Top 25 South Carolina Super Lawyers list

2005–2012 Leading Lawyers in America list – plaintiffs’

1998 President’s Award—for his “courage, legal skills and dedication to our children and the public health of our nation.”