10 years ago today: Landmark tobacco trial ends with a settlementby Elizabeth Stawicki, Minnesota Public Radio
Ten years ago today, the state of Minnesota and Blue Cross Blue Shield reached a landmark settlement with the major tobacco companies. That settlement included $6.1 million to the state of Minnesota and $469 million to Blue Cross Blue Shield.
St. Paul, Minn. — In addition to dollars, the tobacco companies had to end cigarette billboard advertising, stop commenting about the health effects of smoking, and set up a depository for tobacco documents.
The state and Blue Cross had argued the tobacco companies defrauded the public about the true health effects of smoking, and sued to recoup smoking-related health care costs.
It was a momentous case because it unearthed years of internal company documents that showed the companies knew smoking was hazardous and addictive, while publicly, they said the opposite.
The major tobacco companies said they settled because they couldn't get a fair trial in Minnesota. The state's consumer protection laws were tougher than in many other states, and the companies also said the judge was biased against them.
Ramsey County Judge Kenneth Fitzpatrick denied the companies' request to make the "death credit argument," that smokers cost the state less because they tended to die sooner.
In a case where the state and Blue Cross Blue Shield sued to recoup smoking-related health care costs, the companies said the judge denied them the ability to mount a strong defense.
The tobacco companies appealed 18 of the judge's rulings, including one to remove him from the case. Appellate courts upheld all 18 rulings, including two to the U.S. Supreme Court.
- All Things Considered, 05/08/2008, 5:19 p.m.