Request to Transfer Tobacco Case Denied
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a request by Philip Morris Inc. to consolidate the U.S. Justice Department's lawsuit against the tobacco industry with cases already brought by foreign governments.
U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman ruled in the 9-page opinion that the Justice Department's case should stay with the judge to whom it had been initially assigned.
The Justice Department on Sept. 22 filed a lawsuit that accused the tobacco industry of fraud and deceit since the 1950s, and that sought to recover much of the $20 billion spent by the federal government every year on smoking-related illnesses.
The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, who already was presiding over a union trust fund lawsuit against Philip Morris.
Philip Morris sought to have the case consolidated with the pending lawsuits brought by a number of foreign governments alleging harm from the industry's misrepresentations about the health impacts of tobacco and seeking damages.
But Friedman, who is hearing the cases filed by the foreign governments, concluded that the requested consolidation ``will not promote the just and efficient'' handling of the Justice Department's lawsuit.
A status hearing in the Justice Department's case has been scheduled for Friday.