Court Rejects Health Plans, Countries’ Tobacco Claims
A federal appeals court yesterday handed the U.S. tobacco industry a "legal victory," dismissing claims of three foreign governments that sought compensation from tobacco companies for treating sick smokers and a separate charge by administrators of union health plans that the companies engaged in racketeering, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports. Writing in a "joint unanimous ruling" for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Judge Judith Rogers said that neither Guatemala, Nicaragua and Ukraine nor the health plans could "prove they were directly injured by the tobacco companies" (Zuckerbrod, AP/Contra Costa Times, 5/23). Saying that union members, not health care funds, suffered any damage caused by tobacco, Rogers wrote, "[T]he alleged injuries of the third-party payors are too remote to have been proximately caused by the defendants' alleged conduct" (Bloomberg/Winston-Salem Journal, 5/23). The AP/Times reports that the D.C. court became the "eighth federal appeals court to issue such a ruling against union health care plans and the first to address claims of foreign governments." Mitch Neuhauser, an attorney for Brown & Williamson, said that the ruling on the cases "knocks the foundation from lawsuits brought against the tobacco industry by any government institution or third party" (AP/Contra Costa Times, 5/22).