Ecuador drops anti-tobacco suit, Philip Morris says
MIAMI, April 17 (Reuters) - Ecuador's government has dropped a lawsuit against U.S. cigarette makers blamed for economic losses caused by lung cancer and other tobacco-related illnesses, tobacco-giant Philip Morris said on Tuesday.
The Miami judge overseeing the case brought by the Republic of Ecuador on Monday said at a state court hearing that he would dismiss the case if the plaintiffs did not voluntarily withdraw the complaint accusing the maker of Marlboros, Philip Morris, and others of selling dangerous products.
Ecuador has pulled the lawsuit, a spokesman for Philip Morris said, adding the move was just the latest in a string of losses in American state and federal courts for liability suits filed against the industry by foreign governments.
``This decision should be a clear signal to the attorneys pursuing these lawsuits that state courts will be as hostile to these claims as the federal courts,'' said William Ohlemeyer, Philip Morris associate general counsel.
A Miami lawyer for Ecuador, which had also named R.J. Reynolds Tobacco (NYSE:RJR - news) in the eight-count suit, could not be immediately reached for comment. The suit had sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Similar anti-tobacco lawsuits by Honduras, Russia, other countries and state governments in Brazil are still pending in Miami, where a jury last year stung America's big cigarette makers with a record-high $145 billion civil judgment on behalf of Florida's sick smokers.