U.S. Tobacco Lawsuit Expected By Year's End
The U.S. Justice Department is expected by year's end to file a lawsuit against cigarette manufacturers to recover money the Medicare program spends to treat sick smokers, a department official said.
Attorney General Janet Reno told reporters in July that Justice Department lawyers who had examined evidence compiled in state lawsuits against companies such as British American Tobacco Plc's Brown & Williamson, Philip Morris Companies Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc.'s R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. have determined there is a basis for the U.S. government to file its own suit. ``As we have reviewed the information, as we have pursued other theories, we believe we can proceed,'' Reno told reporters in July. The attorney general at that time did not specify when the case would be filed. A department official today said it is expected to be filed in 1999.
David Ogden, Reno's former chief of staff and acting head of the Justice Department's civil division, leads a task force of lawyers preparing the case. It would parallel the lawsuits by 46 states that resulted in a $206 billion settlement with the industry designed to finance treatment of low-income smokers through Medicaid programs, which primarily are financed with state money.
The Justice Department has shut down its five-year-old criminal probe into whether executives for Brown & Williamson, Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. lied to Congress and regulators about the addictive properties of nicotine.