Motley Rice Co-Founding Member Joe Rice Awarded SCAJ Top Honor

Motley Rice LLC, one of the nation’s largest plaintiffs’ litigation firms, is proud to announce that co-founding member Joseph F. Rice is the 2018 recipient of the South Carolina Association for Justice (SCAJ) “Founders’ Award.”

The Founders’ Award, SCAJ’s highest and most prestigious honor, is reserved for South Carolina lawyers who have demonstrated great skill and dedication to professional service over the course of their legal career, a period of at least 30 years. SCAJ describes the award as being given “For years of professional service to the people of this Country and to the purposes of this Association and who is worthy of being recognized as the Peoples’ Advocate – A Trial Lawyer.” Joe will be recognized and presented with the award in August, during SCAJ’s annual convention in Hilton Head, S.C.

Motley Rice co-founder Ron Motley (1944-2013) received the Founders’ Award in 2013.

“Joe is a legendary champion for justice and his career has been an inspiration to the entire legal community. He has been at the center of the most significant and important legal cases of the past three decades,” said SCAJ President Hugh McAngus, Jr.

Recognized as one of the nation’s most skilled negotiators, Joe’s leadership and molding of litigation on behalf of millions of injured workers, patients and consumers spans nearly 40 years. Giving a voice to the voiceless, he has been involved in some of the most devastating public health, environmental and consumer challenges of our time.

“I am deeply humbled to have been selected as the recipient of the 2018 SCAJ Founders’ Award. I watched as my co-founder Ron Motley, a true titan of the Plaintiffs’ Bar, accepted the award in 2013. He was my mentor from the beginning, so to be receiving this award five years after he did is overwhelming. Knowing that my fellow peers in my home state believe me to be worthy of this distinction is one of the biggest honors I have received in my career. I love being a trial lawyer and all that this award represents,” said Rice.

Joe is currently co-lead counsel in the National Prescription Opiate Litigation coordinated in the Northern District of Ohio. He also played an integral role in the national pelvic mesh litigation, creating a resolution framework through which nearly 100,000 people have resolved their claims for pelvic injuries due to mesh. In addition, Joe recently served as a lead negotiator in the nearly $15 billion Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Fraud class action settlement for 2.0-liter vehicles, which is the largest auto-related consumer class action settlement in U.S. history, as well as a separate multi-billion dollar settlement for 3.0-liter vehicles. Joe also 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.

After graduating from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1979, Joe first started practicing law at Blatt & Fales in Barnwell, S.C., working closely beside his mentor, the late Ron Motley, to take on asbestos manufacturers and enhance safety regulations on behalf of workers and their families. The firm later expanded from Barnwell to Charleston, changing its name to Ness, Motley, Loadholt, Richardson & Poole.  Serving as lead private counsel for 26 jurisdictions, including several State Attorneys General, Joe and Ron went on in 1998 to reach the largest civil settlement in U.S. history with the tobacco industry, the $246 billion Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. Under this agreement, the tobacco industry agreed to reimburse states for smoking-related health costs.

Joe and Ron founded Motley Rice LLC in Mt. Pleasant in April 2003, where the firm remains headquartered today. Joe currently leads more than 100 attorneys, across the firm’s nine offices, in practice areas ranging from occupational disease, medical devices, pharmaceutical, securities, consumer fraud and protection, whistleblower, anti-terrorism, aviation, environmental and catastrophic injuries.

Corporate Legal Times reported that national defense counsel and legal scholars have 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.” The American Lawyer described Joe in 2006 as "one of the shrewdest businessmen practicing law.” The 2016 Chambers USA report stated of Joe, “In terms of getting the client money, he’s among the best there’s ever been.”

The South Carolina Association for Justice, founded more than 50 years ago, is a statewide organization that includes more than 1,300 trial lawyer members, with a focus on accountability, integrity and action. The Founders’ Award was established by the association in 1995. For more information about the SCAJ, visit