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Tobacco Companies Sued by County for Antitrust, Racketeering

Pittsburgh, March 9, 1999

U.S. tobacco companies have been sued by Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, for allegedly conspiring to keep consumers from finding out about the health risks of smoking and participating in a criminal enterprise to carry out the plan.

The suit accuses RJR Nabisco Inc., Philip Morris Inc., Loews Corp. and Brooke Group of violating federal antitrust and racketeering laws by suppressing information on the addictive nature of nicotine, misleading the public, and preventing alternative products from being sold. Also named as a defendant was London-based BAT Industries.

Allegheny County's suit is one of many similar actions brought by public and private entities nationwide to recover the costs of treating smoking-related illnesses, one expert said.

``Both antitrust and (racketeering) claims are now the kinds of things public and private entities are relying on to seek reimbursement from tobacco companies for the losses they suffered from tobacco-caused diseases,'' said Richard Daynard, president of the Tobacco Products Liability Project in Boston.

Allegheny County's suit, which was filed March 5 in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, seeks up to $200 million in damages, according to the county's attorney, J. Kerrington Lewis. The $200 million figure may be tripled to $600 million under federal law.

Spokesmen for RJR Nabisco, Loews, and Philip Morris, the world's No. 1 cigarette maker, could not be reached or were unable to comment immediately on the suit. A representative of Miami-based Brooke declined to comment.


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