Moral Low Ground

Economy

Big Tobacco Beats Missouri Hospital Lawsuit

A St.Louis jury has found tobacco corporations do not have to compensate Missouri hospitals trying to recover losses incurred in the treatment of patients suffering from smoking-related illnesses who couldn’t afford to pay their medical bills.

According to the New York Times and the BBC, 37 hospitals in the midwestern state sued Philip Morris (a division of the Altria Group), R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard and other cigarette makers for more than $455 million way back in 1998, claiming the companies sold an “unreasonably dangerous” product, manipulated the nicotine content in cigarettes and lied about the negative health effects of smoking. Damages sought ranged from $300,000 to $86.4 million.

The hospitals, which treat many indigent patients who cannot afford the cost of their care, claimed the tobacco corporations should have reimbursed them for such costs. The plaintiffs also felt entitled to “recover the increased costs incurred to providing all health care services” that result from smoking.

Alas, the jury in the Missouri Circuit Court did not agree.

“The jury agreed with Phillip Morris USA that ordinary cigarettes are not negligently designed or defective,” company official Murray Garnick triumphantly declared.

An official from Lorillard told the BBC: “Compelling evidence was presented to the jury, including testimony from hospital witnesses, that confirmed the hospitals were not financially damaged as they asserted.”

The same cannot be said for their smoking patient’s health, but this case, which involved no patients, was about the hospitals themselves, which may appeal the verdict.

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