Brazilian State Files Tobacco Suit
The Brazilian state of Goias filed a lawsuit Monday against more than a dozen U.S. tobacco companies, seeking billions of dollars on behalf of sick smokers.
The lawsuit, filed in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, alleges the tobacco companies concealed the dangers of smoking and the addictive nature of nicotine. It names 20 defendants, including Philip Morris Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Steven C. Marks, attorney for Goias, said discussions with Philip Morris representatives had been ``a miserable failure, and they have left us with no choice but to proceed with litigation.''
A number of Latin American nations have filed lawsuits in U.S. courts against the tobacco industry. In May 1998, Guatemala became the first country to sue U.S. cigarette makers. Bolivia, Nicaragua and Panama have since followed.
In January, Venezuela sued to recover billions for treating sick smokers. Marks also represents Venezuela in that suit.
The Brazilian state of Rio initiated a suit in July, now pending in a Texas court. Last year, Brazil's Health Minister Jose Serra met with U.S. lawyers to discuss a possible lawsuit filed by Brazil's federal government, but no action has been announced.
Timothy Lindon, associate general counsel for Philip Morris, said he could not comment on the specifics of the Goias case because his company has not been served with the complaint.
``If this is a copycat of the Rio suit, then we think it ignores many significant rulings over the past two years of the appellate courts,'' Lindon said.
Those rulings, Lindon said, have found that third party claims should be dismissed on grounds of remoteness or lack of direct injury.
Alan Glueck, another lawyer for Goias, said the case was filed in Miami because it is considered the gateway to Latin America. Additionally, one of the defendants, the Brooke Group, Ltd., Inc., is based in Miami.