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Tobacco Litigation Trials: 1954-present

The Feds Hop On Board

With the impregnable wall crumbling rapidly, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno announced in September 1999 that the federal government would sue the tobacco companies on grounds similar to those of the state governments. The federal case would also invoke RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) because of what Reno called the industry's "concerted efforts … to defraud the public."

Reno's decision, the settlement of the state claims, and the states' assertion of those claims to begin with, as well as the Castano class action lawsuit, all raised concern in Congress, among the state governments, and in the private sector. Some feared that the settlements went too far in punishing an industry that played such a large role in the American economy and that paid considerable state and federal corporate taxes; others claimed that they did not go far enough. Still others observed that large-scale litigation by states and private parties had transferred a massive effort at social and economic regulation from the state legislatures into the domain of the courts, putting it to a degree under private control. Many observers wondered what this development might mean for gun manufacturers and health maintenance organizations (HMOs). As of this writing, it is unsure what the future will bring regarding these and other similar groups, or how and in what way the tobacco industry itself will be affected. By the mid-1990s, however, the tobacco companies had begun in increase cigarette sales to foreign countries and had started diversifying their holdings in light of the growing apprehension that tobacco would soon be a bad investment.

Buckner F. Melton, Jr.

Suggestions for Further Reading

Kluger, Richard. Ashes to Ashes: America's Hundred-Year Cigarette 1Var; the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

Orey, Michael. Assuming the Risk: The Mavericks, the Lawyers, and the Whistle-Blowers Who Beat Big Tobacco. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1999.

The People vs. Big Tobacco: How the States Took on the Cigarette Giants. Princeton, N.J.: Bloomberg Press, 1998.

Pringle, Peter. Cornered: Big Tobacco at the Bar of Justice. New York: Henry Holt, 1998.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1954 to 1962Tobacco Litigation Trials: 1954-present - Plaintiffs Find A New Argument, State Governments Seek Payback, The Feds Hop On Board, Suggestions For Further Reading