Ruling clears way for California tobacco payments
Sweeping away a last-ditch appeal by a smoker's rights group, a state court has removed a major roadblock that has prevented tobacco companies from paying $25 billion to California coffers under the terms of the 1998 settlement.
San Francisco City Attorney Louise Renne, who filed the first local suit against tobacco companies in 1996, said Monday the decision by the California Fourth District Court of Appeals in San Diego marked a major step toward finally freeing up the national tobacco money.
``With this decision, there should no longer be any excuse for the tobacco companies to dispute the finality of the settlement in California,'' Renne said in a statement.
The $206 billion settlement reached last year between 46 states and major tobacco companies stipulates payments cannot be released until June 2000, unless strict rules are met.
Those rules require 80 percent of the states to clear up any outstanding legal appeals and finalize the settlement, and those states must represent at least 80 percent of the total payments, or $165 billion.