R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company says Dismissal of 14 Health-fund Lawsuits Confirms the Lack of Merit of Third-party Suits
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., March 7/PRNewswire/ -- R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company today said that a New York trial court judge's dismissal of 14 lawsuits brought against the tobacco industry by union trust funds confirms that third- party-payer cases of this type
The March 3 decision by Judge Charles E. Ramos of the N.Y. Supreme Court (New York's trial court) dismissed the 14 cases primarily because, ``... there can be no direct link between the alleged misconduct of Defendants and the alleged damage to the Funds, as the damage to the Funds is remote, indirect, and derivative of third parties.'' Ramos added, ``Courts nationwide have reached identical conclusions.''
All of the cases had sought to recover money the funds paid for medical bills incurred by their participants and beneficiaries who suffer from alleged tobacco-caused diseases.
``To allow the Funds to maintain actions that are entirely dependent upon harm suffered by others would cause chaos in the judicial system, especially in light of the fact that the participants and beneficiaries could bring suits on their own behalf,'' Ramos wrote.
``Numerous state and federal courts -- including five federal appellate courts -- have already dismissed similar third-party-payer suits against the tobacco industry,'' said Thomas F. McKim, assistant general counsel for RJRT. ``The dismissal of these 14 additional cases should send a clear message to plaintiff's lawyers that they're wasting their time pursuing contrived legal theories that don't hold water.''
Ramos also dismissed the suits because they were brought too late under any applicable statute of limitations. He wrote that, ``... the alleged dangers of smoking have been publicized and known to the general public for more than one century.'' Following a thoughtful analysis reviewing the level of public awareness during the past century, Ramos concluded that the funds should have acted sooner to bring their claims.
In his decision, Ramos specifically considered and rejected Judge Jack B. Weinstein's decision to allow the trial of two upcoming third-party cases filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Ramos wrote that, ``this Court does not find (Weinstein's) analysis persuasive or applicable.''
Weinstein's decision was issued in the face of a controlling opinion by the U.S. Circuit of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ordering dismissal of similar third-party lawsuits. Judge Ramos noted that, ``one court has referred to Judge Weinstein's opinion as 'a thinly disguised refusal to accept and follow the second circuit's holding.'''
McKim said that, ``Based on the overwhelming trend supporting dismissal of these types of suits, the cases before Judge Weinstein should also be dismissed.''
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company is a wholly owned subsidiary of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings, Inc. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company is the second-largest tobacco company in the United States, manufacturing about one of every four cigarettes sold in the United States. Reynolds Tobacco's product line includes four of the nation's ten best-selling cigarette brands: Winston, Camel, Salem and Doral.