A federal judge has dismissed a class-action lawsuit against big tobacco firms brought by Washington state labor unions seeking compensation for smoking-related health care costs.
U.S. District Judge William Dwyer granted summary judgment against the plaintiffs, led by the Northwest Laborers Employers Health & Security Trust Fund, saying in the order Thursday that he saw no direct link between alleged tobacco company misconduct and alleged damages.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., one of the defendants, called the decision an important legal victory, saying third-party payers have no basis to claim smoking-related damages.
"The ruling should put an end to these types of suits once and for all," R.J. Reynolds deputy general counsel Daniel Donahue said in a statement.
The trust funds, which provide health care for about 1 million people in Washington and other states, alleged that the industry conspired to hide tobacco's addictiveness and to halt development of safer cigarettes. The funds claimed that smoking-related illnesses have cost them billions of dollars in the past three decades.
Dwyer noted that a similar case was dismissed in Oregon for lack of evidence, a decision that was upheld last week by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.