TOBACCO: Industry Shoots Down Justice Dept.’s Claims
Firing its "most comprehensive response" yet at the Justice Department lawsuit that seeks billions of dollars for federal health care costs, the tobacco industry charged that the "case is built on faulty reasoning and must be dismissed" in an 89-page brief filed in U.S. District Court, the Washington Post reports. In the brief, the lawyers wrote, "No matter how reprehensible the government may claim the conduct of these defendants to have been, the issue on this motion to dismiss is not that conduct: the issue is adherence to the rule of law." Lawyers representing Philip Morris Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and other major cigarette manufacturers maintained that the federal lawsuit "unfairly portrays the industry in the worst possible light and ignores the changes that are coming about as part of a $240 billion settlement reached last year with more than three dozen states." Lawyers also contended that the "federal government cannot make a case to recover health care costs because it 'has long known full well of the health risks posed by smoking'" (Miller, 12/28). The Wall Street Journal reports that the "industry considers its strongest weapon to be a 1947 Supreme Court decision ... that barred federal government suits seeking to recover medical costs unless explicitly authorized by Congress." The lawyers noted that in 1998, Congress declined to pass a Clinton administration- sponsored bill to settle future tobacco suits and argued that the government is "illegitimately seeking to achieve through litigation what had been denied by Congress in legislation." The lawyers attacked the government's attempt to use the Medical Care Recovery Act, saying "Congress didn't intend for the law to be used as the basis for litigation." Further, the government cannot invoke the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law, the lawyers argued, because the tobacco industry "has already agreed to all of the restrictions sought by the federal government in its historic settlement with the states." The Justice Department is expected to file an answer by Feb. 25 (Kuntz, 12/28).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.