State of Minnesota, Health Insurer Sue Tobacco CompaniesBARBARA HAUGEN , Associated Press
Aug. 17, 1994 12:17 PM ET
ST. PAUL, MINN. ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ The state of Minnesota and its largest private health insurance company filed a lawsuit today accusing the nation's tobacco companies of conspiracy, fraud and antitrust violations.
The lawsuit seeks to recover the taxpayers' share of billions of dollars that state residents have paid in smoking-related health care costs, according to state officials and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.
Attorney General Hubert Humphrey III said his was the first state lawsuit in the United States to allege an antitrust conspiracy and consumer fraud against tobacco companies.
''Previous lawsuits have said the tobacco companies should pay because their products are dangerous,'' Humphrey said. ''This suit says they should pay because the conduct ... is illegal.''
Named as defendants: Philip Morris Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp., B.A.T. Industries P.L.C., Lorillard Tobacco Co., The American Tobacco Co., Liggett Group Inc., The Council for Tobacco Research- U.S.A. Inc. and The Tobacco Institute Inc.
The Tobacco Institute referred calls to Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, both of which said they had no immediate comment on the suit.
The complaint, filed in Ramsey County District Court, contends that the cigarette companies and their trade associations broke a promise to disclose the truth about smoking and health and have united in a four-decade conspiracy to cover up their knowledge about the addictive, lethal qualities of cigarettes and to suppress the marketing of safer cigarettes.
''It is time to blow away the black cloud of conspiracy and collusion, and force the tobacco companies to clean up and pay up,'' Humphrey said.
In a lawsuit filed in May, Mississippi became the first state in the nation to ask the tobacco industry to reimburse it for money spent treating illnesses caused by smoking.
And last month, Philip Morris began a court challenge to Florida's anti- tobacco law, considered the nation's toughest. That statute allows the state to sue tobacco companies for the costs of treating Medicaid patients who suffer from lung cancer, emphysema and other smoking-related illnesses.