U.S. Cigarette Wholesalers Suing Tobacco Companies
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Cigarette wholesalers and distributors are filing on Tuesday a proposed class-action lawsuit claiming major tobacco companies illegally fixed prices in the United States and abroad, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said.
The lawyer, Paul Gallagher, said the lawsuit did not seek a specific amount of damages, but that ``billions of dollars'' could be at stake in the case involving alleged violations of international law and federal antitrust law. Gallagher said the lawsuit named as the defendants Philip Morris Cos. Inc.; R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc.; Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., a unit of British American Tobacco Plc; Lorillard Tobacco Co., a unit of Loews Corp.; and Liggett Group, a unit of Brooke Group Ltd.
He said the lawsuit, being filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., alleges the price fixing took place since at least 1993 in the domestic market and since at least 1988 in the foreign market.
The lawsuit, which was brought by about two dozen law firms, represents the latest legal attack on the tobacco industry, which already faces a massive civil lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department last year.
In 1998, 46 states settled lawsuits against the tobacco companies for $206 billion. Some of those lawsuits included antitrust allegations, but the settlement did not prevent lawsuits brought by private companies.