Tobacco giants in the US criticize a federal judge, while one of them loses another battle

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In the United States a federal judge was accused by the tobacco companies of forcing them to inaccurately describe themselves as unscrupulous villains who continue to deceive the public. This comes as part of an appeals court filing procedure, in which the tobacco industry players maintain that the statements that the judge in a government lawsuit against them has asked them to make should be scrapped because they would only serve to trigger public anger against the tobacco companies, not least because the said statement to be issued is too broad and misleading.

More specifically, the largest US cigarette makers are protesting against U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, who had ordered them to admit they had lied for decades about the dangers of smoking, and to publicize a federal court’s conclusion that Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Philip Morris USA had deliberately deceived the public.

This case dates back to 2009, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had directed judge Kessler to craft corrective statements confined to purely factual and uncontroversial information that would reveal previously hidden truths about the tobacco industry’s products. However, according to the tobacco companies judge Kessler went beyond those instructions and ordered instead a series of inflammatory statements that require the defendants to denigrate themselves. Clarifying that in accordance with the appeals court’s ruling, they stand ready to disseminate statements that provide public health information about cigarettes, the tobacco companies have thus filed a new filing objecting the statement prepared by judge Kessler and the arguments on this case will be heard on 23rd February 2015.

In the meantime, Philip Morris USA, owned by the Richmond, Virginia-based Altria Group, the largest tobacco seller in the USA and maker of popular brands such as Marlboro, Parliament and L&M, has lost an appeal of a $4.93 million award to the widow of a man who said he wouldn’t have started smoking when he was 13 years old in the 1960s if he had known it caused cancer. This court decision by the U.S. appeals court in Manhattan represents the latest setback for cigarette companies battling historic wrongful-death litigation.

Although the industry has already reached a $206 billion settlement with 46 states since 1998, individual lawsuits persist and the case in question is one of the thousands filed by smokers and their surviving family members accusing Philip Morris and other cigarette makers of hiding scientific evidence pertaining to the dangers of smoking for decades as customers became addicted.

It is reminded that back in June 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court had rejected the efforts made by the tobacco industry in order to derail thousands of lawsuits filed by smokers in the state of Florida, on the grounds that these lawsuits were improperly using jury findings established in a class action more than a decade earlier. The high court’s decision was contrary to the wishes of the tobacco companies however and it left intact 11 awards totaling more than $70 million.

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