CHARLESTON -- CVS Pharmacy and other defendants in a lawsuit filed by outside counsel hired by state Attorney General Darrell McGraw have removed the case to federal court.
McGraw sued CVS, Kmart, Kroger, Target, Wal-Mart and Walgreen in Boone County in August, alleging the companies regularly overcharge for generic prescription drugs. U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver is now presiding over the case.
McGraw hired Bailey & Glasser and DiTrapano Barrett & DiPiero to pursue the case. He also hired them to sue Rite-Aid in a separate action that makes the same allegations.
Rite-Aid also removed its suit to federal court, arguing that it involves federal Medicaid funds.
The two firms have contributed more than $60,000 to McGraw's campaign fund over the years, including $11,800 for his 2008 race against Republican Dan Greear.
West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, a legal watchdog group, said McGraw hiring campaign contributors is a frequent problem.
"Similar pay-to-play allegations have created a political earthquake in Pennsylvania recently, and unfortunately for West Virginia the practice appears to be far too commonplace for Attorney General McGraw as well," CALA Executive Director Richie Heath said.
McGraw's highest-profile cases in which he hired outside counsel that contributed to his campaigns are his 2001 suit against OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma that resulted in more than one-third of a $10 million settlement going to the attorneys and a settlement with Visa and MasterCard that yielded $3.9 million in attorneys fees.
McGraw's office has a similar disdain for CALA. Chief Deputy Attorney General Fran Hughes feels the group's grassroots image is a sham, and that it is funded by out-of-state corporate interests.
Hughes approached former Executive Director Steve Cohen after a hearing in Wheeling and said it was dishonest to call his group a watchdog when it was a business group.
"One of these days you will be exposed, and you will get your due," she told Cohen.
Cohen had asked a state judge to demand information that showed the $3.9 million the attorneys requested in the Visa/MasterCard case is justified. The judge denied his request.
Last year, Hughes said CALA's objective is "to foster a legal environment that shields its contributors from accountability when they break the law."
A recent settlement in McGraw's case against Eli Lilly & Co. yielded $6.75 million for outside counsel. Heath also mentioned that court records show outside counsel may have earned more than $3,000 per hour for their work on the Visa/MasterCard case.