Blue Cross and Blue Shield Wins Another Legal Round Against Big Tobacco
Big tobacco lost an effort to block a suit by Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans for costs due to smoking-related illnesses in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit today.
The case, which involves claims for billions of dollars in damages, will continue to proceed to trial in April 2000.
``The Circuit Court's decision is a significant victory because it permits the plans to go to trial to prove that the tobacco companies engaged in conduct with devastating consequences for public health,'' said Vincent FitzPatrick, a senior litigation partner in the firm of Dewey Ballantine, LLP, which represents the plans.
The tobacco companies asked the Second Circuit to review a decision by Brooklyn Federal District Court Judge Jack Weinstein, which held that the Blues could pursue their claims against the tobacco companies. The Circuit Court denied their petitions without opinion.
The Coalition for Tobacco Responsibility, a group of Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans from around the country, filed three federal lawsuits against tobacco in April 1998 alleging that the industry concealed the addictive nature of smoking, and manipulated nicotine levels to increase the potential for addiction. The suits are based on federal antitrust and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statutes, state laws on consumer protection and fair business practices, and various common law tort claims. The antitrust and RICO claims are perhaps the largest claims of these types asserted in U.S. history.