U.S. court throws out labor unions' tobacco suit
A federal judge has dismissed a class-action lawsuit against big tobacco firms brought by Washington state labor unions seeking compensation for smoking-related health care costs.
U.S. District Judge William Dwyer on Thursday granted summary judgment against the plaintiffs, led by the Northwest Laborers Employers Health & Security Trust Fund, saying he saw no direct link between alleged tobacco company misconduct and alleged damages.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., one of the defendants, called the decision an important legal victory for Big Tobacco, saying third-party payers like labor unions have no basis to claim smoking-related damages.
The trust funds, which provide health care for about 1 million people in Washington and other Western states, alleged the industry conspired to hide tobacco's addictiveness and to halt development of safer cigarettes. The funds claimed that smoking-related illnesses have cost them billions of dollars over the past three decades.
Judge Dwyer noted that a similar case was dismissed in Oregon for lack of evidence, a decision that was upheld last week by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.