Paul J. Hanly Jr., a top trial lawyer who had been central to the current nationwide litigation against pharmaceutical companies and others in the supply chain for their role in the deadly opioid epidemic, died on Saturday at his home in Miami Beach. He was 70.
The cause was anaplastic thyroid cancer, an extremely rare and aggressive disease, said Jayne Conroy, his longtime law partner.
Over his four-decade career, Mr. Hanly, a class-action plaintiffs’ lawyer, litigated and managed numerous complex legal cases, involving among other things the funding of terrorists, stemming from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and allegations of the sexual abuse of dozens of boys by a man who ran an orphanage and school in Haiti.
But nothing compares to the national opioid cases that are pending in federal court in Cleveland on behalf of thousands of municipalities and tribes against the manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioid pain medications. The federal opioid litigation is regarded by many as perhaps the most complex in American legal history — even more entangled and far-reaching than the epic legal battles with the tobacco industry.
settled with Purdue for $75 million. It was one of the few instances in which a drug maker agreed to pay individual patients who had accused it of soft-pedaling the risk of addiction.
Mr. Hanly had a history of taking on complex cases with vast numbers of plaintiffs. Shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks, he represented some of the families who had lost loved ones on the planes and in the World Trade Center. He also filed suit to stop the sale of tanzanite, a raw stone used as a cash alternative to fund terrorist activities. That lawsuit was expanded to include foreign governments, banks and others that supported Al Qaeda. Portions of it remain pending.
Another of his important cases was a 2013 landmark settlement of $12 million on behalf of 24 Haitian boys who said they had been sexually abused by Douglas Perlitz, who ran programs for underprivileged boys and was subsequently sentenced to 19 years in prison. Mr. Hanly said the defendants, including the Society of Jesus of New England, Fairfield University and others, had not properly supervised Mr. Perliitz. Mr. Hanly filed additional charges in 2015, bringing the total number of abused youths to more than 100 between the late 1990s and 2010.
“Paul was a lawyer’s lawyer,” said Ms. Conroy, his law partner. She said he was renowned for his exhaustive trial preparation, his creative trial strategies and his nearly photographic memory of the contents of documents.
He was also known for veering sartorially from the muted grays and blacks of most lawyers to more jaunty attire in bright yellows, blues and pinks. He favored bespoke styles that were flashy yet sophisticated. His two-tone shoes were all handmade.
John V. Kenny, a former mayor of Jersey City and a powerful Hudson County Democratic boss known as “the pope of Jersey City,” who was jailed in the 1970s after pleading guilty to charges of income tax evasion.
Mr. Hanly took a different path. He went to Cornell, where his roommate was Ed Marinaro, who went on to play professional football and later became an actor (best known for “Hill Street Blues”). Mr. Hanly, who played football with him, graduated in 1972 with a major in philosophy and received a scholar-athlete award as the Cornell varsity football senior who combined the highest academic average with outstanding ability.