Federal Judge Postpones Justice Department Lawsuit Against Tobacco Companies Until 2004
A federal judge yesterday postponed a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department against Philip Morris and other tobacco companies until September 2004, Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times reports. U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler said that debate over pretrial document exchange would make a 2003 trial date "difficult to meet," according to the Bloomberg/Times. The department filed suit against the tobacco companies in 1999 (Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times, 10/3). The lawsuit initially sought to recoup $20 billion in funds that the federal government spent to treat smokers through Medicare and other public health programs, a claim that Kessler rejected. However, Kessler has allowed the department to pursue a racketeering charge to recover billions of dollars in profits allegedly earned through fraud (California Healthline, 7/31/01). The lawsuit now seeks damages estimated at $100 billion and alleges that since 1953 the nine tobacco companies named in the suit have conspired to mislead smokers about the dangers of smoking (Wall Street Journal, 10/4). The DOJ and the tobacco companies have disagreed about whether the government should submit certain documents to the companies, Kessler said. She added that documents from the Federal Trade Commission and the White House "will undoubtedly raise many privilege issues" (Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times, 10/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.