Cigarette Litigation

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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...
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