Tying The States' Hands
BAR TO STATE GOVERNMENT CIVIL
SUITS AGAINST BIG TOBACCO FOR FUTURE ACTS
If a state settles its lawsuit against the tobacco companies as part
of the proposed multi-state settlement, that state cannot file the same
claims against the companies again. The state must release these claims
against the tobacco companies and other defendants in order for there to
be a settlement.
But the extent of the release of a state's claims -- especially regarding
future acts of the tobacco companies and other defendants -- can be narrow
or broad. In the proposed multi-state settlement (section nn), the states
are asked to release the following claims:
for past conduct, all civil claims (including those seeking damages,
civil penalties, or any other relief) that are in any way related to the
use, sale, distribution, manufacture, development, marketing or health
effects of, exposure to, and research or statements about tobacco products
(except for claims for outstanding liability under existing licensing fee
laws or existing tax laws)
for future conduct, the proposed settlement releases "only those
monetary Claims directly or indirectly based on, arising out of or in any
way related to, in whole or in part, the use of or exposure to Tobacco
Products . . ." including all future claims for reimbursement of health
care costs associated with the use of or exposure to tobacco products.
Questions and Concerns:
Exactly what claims would the state release if it joined the proposed
States would be barred from filing new health-related monetary claims,
even for health problems for which they are not now being compensated.
States would appear to be blocked from filing suits for health-care reimbursement
costs relating to disease and death due to second-hand smoke, for example.
How are future acts of the company treated differently than past acts
in the release provisions? What is included under the definition of "monetary
claims" that the state can pursue in the future?
Would the state be able to assess civil penalties against the tobacco
companies if they violated state statutes in ways that are directly or
indirectly related to tobacco and health?
How would these provisions affect the ability of states to enforce or
bring claims under state antitrust, fraud and other consumer protection
For more information, contact: Robert Weissman, Essential Action, 202-387-8030.