Originally created 08/30/97

Georgia files $2.78 billion suit

ATLANTA - Georgia became the latest state to go after the tobacco industry Friday with a lawsuit seeking $2.78 billion to repay Medicaid for treating smoking-related illnesses.

In addition, under the Georgia Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization law, the state wants triple damages plus an undisclosed punitive award.

Triple damages would give the state $8.34 billion.

The lawsuit by one of the nation's largest tobacco-producing states also seeks an injunction to halt marketing and advertising of industry products to children.

"This is not a lawsuit against tobacco farmers," said Attorney General Thurbert Baker, who grew up working the tobacco fields of North Carolina. "This is a lawsuit against tobacco manufacturers who for decades have known their products are addictive and deadly and have hidden these truths from the public."

The lawsuit, filed Friday afternoon in Fulton County Superior Court, names Philip Morris Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the Liggett Group, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., BAT Industries, Lorillard Tobacco Co., the American Tobacco Co. and the industry's chief lobbying organization, the Tobacco Institute.

Similar lawsuits have been filed against the companies in 40 states.

Congress is currently looking over a proposed $368.5 billion national settlement with the states.

Florida signed a record $11.3 billion settlement on Monday. Mississippi, the first state to take the industry to court, settled its lawsuit July 3 for nearly $3.6 billion.

Michael York, a Washington lawyer representing Philip Morris, responded that his company has worked to keep cigarettes out of the hands of children.

Tobacco factsA glance at tobacco farming in Georgia last year:

  • Tobacco was Georgia's third largest cash crop, behind cotton and peanuts.
  • 46,000 acres were harvested, valued at $205 million.
  • 114 million pounds were produced, ranking Georgia fifth among tobacco producing states.
  • 65 to 68 percent of Georgia tobacco is exported.
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    Source: Georgia Department of Agriculture


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