U.S. Judge Limits Smoking Case
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- A federal judge has denied class-action status to Nevada casino dealers and others who wanted tobacco companies to pay for medical exams to detect smoking-related illnesses.
A plaintiffs' lawyer said the decision could kill cases in Nevada aimed at proving that tobacco companies lied about the adverse health effects of breathing secondhand smoke.
``You usually cannot bring these cases one-by-one,'' said Robert Gerard, a Las Vegas and San Diego lawyer representing two of the plaintiffs. ``That's not economical.''
U.S. District Judge Philip M. Pro in Las Vegas ruled that differences in the four Nevada cases were too great to lump them together for trial. One involved smokers. The other three were filed on behalf of nonsmoking casino workers exposed to secondhand smoke.
Executives at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris Co., two of the four defendants, hailed the June 29 ruling after copies reached the parties this week.
``The court's decision is very sensible,'' Daniel W. Donahue, senior vice president and general counsel for Reynolds Tobacco, said Thursday.
``Tobacco class actions simply are not appropriate because they always involve a wide variety of individuals,'' he said, ``(and) unique facts and circumstances.''
Gerard called Pro's ruling ``a double loss for casino workers.''
``Not only can they be denied (monetary) damages,'' he said, ``but they were seeking class certification to establish a medical monitoring fund so that smokers and nonsmoking casino workers could get an early diagnosis and the best benefit from any available medical treatment.''
Gerard said a class-action case could represent 100,000 nonsmoking casino workers in Nevada and many times that number of individual smokers. Nevada has the highest per capita number of smoking adults in the nation.
The four cases in which class-action status was denied are: Badillo vs. American Tobacco Co.; Dienno vs. Liggett Group; Christensen vs. Philip Morris and Selcer vs. R.J. Reynolds.