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Class action attorneys accuse Rivera of playing politics

by Jill Harmacinski, Eagle Tribune

Class action attorneys handling the $143 million Merrimack Valley gas disaster settlement criticized Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera, saying he made a political, not legal, argument by asking for their $28 million in legal fees to be reduced by 75%. "From the inception, here Mayor Rivera makes not a legal argument, but a political one. From the inception of the case he has disparaged the lawyers involved and the profession at large in court and in the media, without any basis," court documents filed this week by the class action attorneys state. The legal fees in the $143 million settlement would drop from $28 million to $7 million if Judge James Lang accepts Rivera's request. By his estimate, Rivera said attorneys involved in the settlement are making $44,000 daily for their work since the gas disaster Sept. 13, 2018. A final hearing on the gas disaster civil action lawsuit was held Feb. 27 in Salem Superior Court. The settlement includes thousands of dollars of lump sum and itemized payments for gas disaster victims in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover. Lang took the settlement under advisement but has not issued a final ruling. On Tuesday, the class action attorneys filed another motion and supplemental memorandum in the case, in which they contested their legal fees being reduced. In the memorandum, they pointed to multi-million dollar judgements for attorneys in other class action suits. And they took issue with Rivera's previous statements about their legal fees in this case. Rivera has stated that immediately following the gas disaster, a "vulture culture" of lawyers looking for clients swept into the communities affected by the disaster.



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