NY judge dismisses European Community tobacco suit
NEW YORK, July 17 (Reuters) - A federal district court judge in Brooklyn has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the European Community against the top two U.S. tobacco companies over allegations involving smuggling of contraband cigarettes, Philip Morris Cos. I
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis found that under applicable law, the EC has not been injured, Philip Morris, the world's largest tobacco company, said.
The EC claimed that Philip Morris units, as well as entities of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc., sold cigarettes that got into member countries, avoiding various taxes, including excise taxes.
New York-based Philip Morris said the court also denied a motion by the EC to add a number of its member states to the lawsuit.
In ruling on the motion to dismiss the suit, Garaufis was required by federal rules to assume the plaintiff's allegations as fact, without evidence, Philip Morris said. The court's decision does not address the truthfulness of the smuggling allegations made against the tobacco companies, the company said.
Philip Morris denies such allegations. The company filed suit against the EC last year in an international court in Brussels, challenging the EC's right to sue over the issue, Philip Morris said.
``We would welcome the opportunity to sit down and discuss with the EC and any governments the ways to resolve these matters without litigation,'' William Ohlemeyer, Philip Morris vice president and associate general counsel, said in a statement. ``Should the EC or any of its member states choose to pursue litigation, despite the dismissal of this suit, we intend to offer a vigorous defense.''