Big Tobacco and the Law

By Weissman, Robert | Multinational Monitor, July-August 1998 | Go to article overview

Big Tobacco and the Law


Weissman, Robert, Multinational Monitor


A. Tobacco & The Campaign for Tort Deform

With the prospects of lawsuits causing major uncertainty for the tobacco industry's future well-being - and leading Wall Street to depress the value of its stocks - gaining effective legal immunity has long been at the top of Big Tobacco's wishlist.

It was the desire to escape from pending litigation and its uncertainty that led the industry to enter the agreement in June 1997 with the U.S. states attorneys general for a settlement to all existing lawsuits against the industry and an effective prohibition on future suits.

And the same motivation has made Big Tobacco into perhaps the leading industry proponent of "tort deform" - changes in the civil justice system to make it harder for victims of dangerous products to sue.

The tobacco papers illustrate the critical importance the industry attaches to tort deform and the enormous resources it has devoted to attaining it, especially at the state level.

In a 1987 memo, Hamish Maxwell, then CEO of Philip Morris, discussed "this corporation's drive toward improving products liability law at the federal and state levels." The project was of the highest importance, he wrote. "I cannot overemphasize the importance of this project. Weaknesses in the law which may enable plaintiffs to win outrageous lawsuits threaten the very core of our businesses" .

In a 1992 presentation to the Philip Morris board of directors, an unnamed high-level company official, apparently an attorney, explained why tort deform is so important to Philip Morris and how the company has succeeded in pushing tort deform: "State tort reform legislation can lead to codification of a number of defenses to product liability claims, establish limitations on the availability of punitive damages, and provide certain procedural protections. Tort reform can therefore serve to limit the significance of an increased number of lawsuits by reducing the possibility of and severity of adverse judgments in such lawsuits" .

"Our past tort reform efforts have been successful in a number of important jurisdictions," the presenter continued, "including California, New Jersey and Texas, among other states. You will recall that a statute adopted three years ago in California led to the immediate dismissal of over 20 cases in that state, and virtually immunized us from future smoking and health litigation in that jurisdiction."

Through tort deform efforts, the industry sought to reverse the doctrine of strict liability (which holds manufacturers absolutely liable for the harm their product causes, irrespective of a showing of negligence), to restrict use of class actions (which let plaintiffs with similar cases band together to sue a manufacturer or group of manufacturers) and to undermine the use of contingency fees (by which plaintiffs' lawyers are paid a percentage of what they win for plaintiffs, with no up-front charge and no payment if they fail to recover any money) .

In a 1992 "Checklist of Priority Issues Concerning Tort Reform and Product Liability," the Tobacco Institute listed key liability issues in state legislatures in 1993. The top issues were: tobacco manufacturer liability, product liability standards, comparative fault/negligence, statute of limitations, statute of repose, protective order/sealed settlement disclosure, punitive damages and contingency fees .

The tobacco papers also contain seemingly endless memos from the State Affairs Division of the Tobacco Institute describing state legislative prospects and lobbying strategies (see "Big Tobacco Goes to Washington: From Head to Toe," this issue).

B. Preemption Obsession

Preemption - the use of federal law to block state or local efforts to regulate tobacco or to block federal suits, or state law to block local regulations or private suits - has been a central obsession of the tobacco industry for more than three decades. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Big Tobacco and the Law
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.