Cigarette Litigation Essay

This essay has a total of 2283 words and 10 pages.

Cigarette Litigation

Cigarette Litigation

In August 1970 a leading tobacco defense attorney, David R. Hardy, wrote a confidential
letter warning that indiscreet comments by industry scientists, including references to
biologically active components of cigarette smoke and the search for a safer cigarette,
constitute a real threat to the continued success in the defense of smoking and health
litigation. The actual knowledge on the part of the defendant that smoking is generally
dangerous to health, that certain ingredients are dangerous to health and should be
removed, or that smoking causes a particular disease. This would not only be evidence that
would substantially prove a case against the defendant company for compensatory damages,
but could be considered as evidence of willfulness or recklessness sufficient to support a
claim for punitive damages.

As the evidence about the health hazards of smoking accumulated, and especially after the
1964 surgeon general's report, liability protection. The cigarette companies continued to
aim propaganda about the smoking and health controversy at the general public. The
Cigarette Papers describes plans in 1969 for a public relations campaign intended to set
aside in the minds of millions the false conviction that cigarette smoking causes lung
cancer and other diseases. As late as 1985, R.J. Reynolds ran misleading ads suggesting
that a large epidemiological study had not found evidence of a link between smoking and
heart disease.

The tobacco companies have always feared that one successful suit would lead to a flood of
litigation, sweeping the industry away. Nowadays that fear seems more realistic than ever,
given the hundreds of pending state lawsuits, secondhand smoke claims, class actions, and
cases filed by individual smokers.

The case started when two small-town Mississippi lawyers declared war on Tobacco Companies
and skillfully pursued a daring new litigation strategy that ultimately brought the
industry to the negotiating table. For forty years tobacco companies had won every lawsuit
brought against them and never paid out a dime. In 1997 that all changed. The industry
agreed to a historic deal to pay $368 billion in health-related damages and tear down
billboard advertisements.

Mississippi's Attorney General Mike Moore joined forces with his classmate attorney Dick
Scruggs and sued tobacco companies on behalf of the state's taxpayers to recoup money
spent on health care for smokers. Scruggs and Moore crossed the country in a private jet
hawking their battle strategy to other state attorneys general and eventually built an
army of forty states.

Moore and Scruggs had a number of secret weapons. They took charge of explosive tobacco
industry internal documents that no one else would touch. And they protected two of the
most important whistleblowers in the history of the tobacco wars: Jeffrey Wigand, the
first high-level tobacco executive to turn against the companies; and Merrell Williams, a
paralegal who secretly copied thousands of internal documents.

The two men held another trump card. They offered a deal to Bennett LeBow, CEO of Liggett
& Myers: break ranks with the industry and cooperate with the state attorneys general in
return for financial stability. They also managed to get a back channel to President
Clinton and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott through political advisor Dick Morris.

Scrugg and Moore's success was not limited to getting the industry to a national
settlement. For the first time their efforts triggered a massive criminal investigation of
Big Tobacco that threatens to put some in jail for deceiving the American public. Partly
because of this criminal investigation, strong forces in the public health community
opposed settlement talks.

Since October 22nd, 1996 there were 17 state Medicaid reimbursement suits pending against
the industry, and numerous parallel suits brought by cities and counties where the state
itself has not sued (notably suits by the Cities of San Francisco and San Jose, and by
Erie County in New York). Numerous individual suits remain pending, although only two
plaintiffs have prevailed at the trial level (Rose Cipollone in New Jersey, whose judgment
was reversed by the US Supreme Court, and Grady Carter in Florida, whose trial court
judgment is on appeal), and recent plaintiffs have lost (most notably in the Rogers suit
in Indiana, the Hutchin suit in Louisiana, and the Allgood suit in Texas). Numerous class
suits remain pending, usually seeking recovery for statewide classes after the refusal of
the Fifth Circuit to certify a nationwide class in the Castano suit.

At this time, 17 states are suing the cigarette industry for reimbursement of medical
expenses, mostly, in state court. The first five states were Florida, Louisiana,
Massachusetts, Mississippi, and West Virginia are suing in state court except for Arizona,
Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan,
Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia. In
California, the Cities of San Jose and San Francisco have brought Medicaid reimbursement
suits. Los Angeles County has sued, along with ten others. The City of New York filed its
own suit on October 17, 1996. In September 1996, Cuyahoga County Commissioner Timothy
Hagan and Brook Park Mayor Thomas Coyne brought suit on behalf of Ohio taxpayers for
Medicaid reimbursement. In Florida on August 30, 1996, the lawyer who won the verdict for
Grady Carter filed suit against cigarette makers on behalf of 390 clients. In Minnesota on
September 4, 1996, a group of smokers filed a class suit against cigarette makers on
behalf of smokers. In Ohio in September, a well-known lawyer who specializes in class
suits, Stanley Chesley, filed a class suit against cigarette makers.

The lawyers who represented the first states to settle with the tobacco industry over
health care costs were awarded $8.2 billion in fees, the richest legal payout in the
nation's history. The money, which will be divided among dozens of lawyers who represented
the states, Florida, Mississippi and Texas, is the first to result from a series of
tobacco cases that culminated last month in a $206 billion settlement between tobacco
companies, 46 states and five United States territories. The fees will be paid by
cigarette makers, and their payments, which are limited to $500 million annually, will run
until all the lawyers' claims are settled. The payouts will not affect the amounts
received by the states. Cigarette makers are likely to pass on the fees, like the rest of
the $206 billion settlement, to smokers.

The tobacco settlement would cost the highly profitable industry an average of $14.7
billion annually over the next 25 years, more than twice its profits from domestic
cigarette sales in 1996. The industry called that and other terms of the deal a ''bitter
pill.'' At the same time, the industry was confronted with the very real prospect of
vastly expanded Federal regulation, power that it would concede under the agreement.

Philip Morris is acknowledging that scientific evidence shows that smoking causes lung
cancer and other deadly diseases, after decades of disputing the findings of the United
States Surgeon General and other medical authorities. In recent years Philip Morris, the
nation's largest cigarette maker, has moved closer to prevailing scientific opinion about
the health risks of smoking, as it has faced increasing pressure from smoking-related
lawsuits, regulators and Congress. But on a new Internet site it unveiled as part of a
$100 million corporate image campaign, the company unequivocally states there is an
'overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that cigarette smoking causes diseases
including lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease. It also states that smoking is
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