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 ...view middle of the document...
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 Cities of San Francisco and San Jose, and by Erie County in New York). Numerous individual suits remain pending, although only two plaintiffs have prevailed at the trial level (Rose Cipollone in New Jersey, whose judgment was reversed by the US Supreme Court, and Grady Carter in Florida, whose trial court judgment is on appeal), and recent plaintiffs have lost (most notably in the Rogers suit in Indiana, the Hutchin suit in Louisiana, and the Allgood suit in Texas). Numerous class suits remain pending, usually seeking recovery for statewide classes after the refusal of the Fifth Circuit to certify a nationwide class in the Castano suit.
At this time, 17 states are suing the cigarette industry for reimbursement of medical expenses, mostly, in state court. The first five states were Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, and West Virginia are suing in state court except for Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota,...