National Complaint Amended Against Tobacco Industry and Political Defendants
LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 2, 2000--The multibillion-dollar complaint against the big five tobacco companies has been expanded in a new First Amended Complaint, filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California.
The original complaint, filed Aug. 13, 1999, challenges the Nov. 23, 1998, Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) for antitrust and constitutional violations, in one of the largest lawsuits ever filed. The Amended Complaint now asserts violations of the First Amendment, and the Import/Export Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
In addition to corporate defendants Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, Lorrilard and Liggett Group, and politician defendants as the Attorneys General for 47 states, lawyers from Bennett & Fairshter, of Pasadena, Calif., named an additional 47 defendants who represent the state agencies charged with the enforcement of the terms of the MSA and Model Act. The complaint is filed on behalf of national and international discount cigarette distributors.
This lawsuit will attempt to overturn the Qualifying Statute, Model Act, and make important modifications to the MSA, and mandate that any settlement proceeds be deposited into a national trust to pay for health-care costs of persons who are suffering smoking-related illnesses.
It will also address how the state agencies, Attorneys General, National Association of Attorneys General, and the tobacco companies are engaging in a collusive, monopolistic practice to limit and exclude competition from the plaintiffs, in violation of the First Amendment, Import/Export Clause, antitrust laws and the U.S. Constitution.
``There are several specific points about the agreement that should be particularly disturbing to the public, and for competitors in this market, besides acting above the law. First, the agreement does not have any safeguards in place to prevent the tobacco companies from gouging the public with higher prices and racking in huge additional profits at their expense.
``The day after the November settlement, the tobacco companies increased the price per pack an additional 45 cents, which they justified as cost increases to pay for the settlement. But the settlement cost to them, per pack, was only 18.8 cents! On Aug. 30, 1999, they increased prices again by 18 cents per pack, using the same justification!
``Their profits in the past year are already up more than 100 percent. And, there are no safeguards to prevent the tobacco companies from increasing prices even further,'' said Matthew Fairshter, lead trial attorney for the plaintiffs.
``The MSA is nothing more than a sweetheart deal between the states and the tobacco companies to facilitate raising prices, the elimination of price competition offered by plaintiffs, and the reaping of lucrative monopolistic profits by the tobacco companies with little return to the public to pay for the costs of smoking-related illnesses,'' said Fairshter.