Farmers set to sue tobacco companies
NEW YORK, Feb 16 (Reuters) - About a week after it was hit by a lawsuit from wholesalers, the tobacco industry is expected to be a target of one to be filed by farmers seeking $69 billion in damages, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
Thousands of tobacco farmers are expected to file a suit in federal court in Washington on Wednesday against the nation's four largest cigarette makers.
The suit is expected to accuse the cigarette makers -- Philip Morris Co. Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc., Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., a unit of British American Tobacco Plc, and Lorillard Tobacco Co., a unit of Loews Corp. -- of violating antitrust laws and using their market power to take billions of dollars away from farmers, the Journal said.
It quoted lawyer Alexander Pires, representing the farmers, as saying that 4,000 tobacco growers have so far joined the suit, which will seek class-action status.
The lawsuit is expected to accuse the tobacco companies of misleading growers into opposing tobacco legislation introduced by Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, that would have settled anti-tobacco lawsuits at a cost of $500 billion while providing about $28 billion in aid to the farmers.
The bill was defeated and the cigarette companies then settled a $206 billion suit with state governments. As part of that agreement, the industry agreed to pay $5.15 billion into a trust fund for farmers. The lawsuit also is expected to contend that the industry was aided by the attorneys general of the 14 tobacco-growing states that agreed to the trust-fund deal, the Journal said.