MELVIN BELLI HEADS LEGAL TEAM THAT FILES $5 BILLION CLASS ACTION SUIT
AGAINST ALL TOBACCO COMPANIES
30 March 1994
© 1994, PR Newswire
FDA Opens Door For Damages For Alleged Conspiracy To Addict Customers With Nicotine
SAN FRANCISCO and NEW ORLEANS, March 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Famed attorney Melvin M. Belli, noted New Orleans class action attorney Wendell H. Gauthier and San Francisco lawyer Robert Leif head a vast legal team which has today filed the first international class action suit against America's major tobacco industries. The $5 billion suit charges Philip Morris Tobacco, R.J. Reynolds and a myriad of others with the wrongful deaths and disabilities of thousands and thousands of people who were addicted to nicotine in cigarettes caused both by the natural substance in tobacco and, most importantly, the intentional addition of extra nicotine to keep victim customers addicted in order to keep buying the product.
" ... manipulation and dosage of Nicotine not recognized on the label of the drug or tobacco product constitutes an adulteration and/or misbranding as defined by the Federal Food Drug Cosmetic Act and may constitute a criminal act and breach of duty subjecting all defendants to civil liability for all damages," states a portion of the 14-page suit by Belli and Gauthier.
Belli, who recently helped successfully sue Imelda Marcos for $1.2 billion, states, " ... 30 years ago I filed the first suit against these same tobacco companies in the same city of New Orleans. We lost because we couldn't prove the addiction of nicotine then. Now I have great satisfaction in filing this first class action suit with Wendell Gauthier against this industry that will finally have to defend themselves against these charges. We will prove that the tobacco industry has conspired to catch you, hold you and kill you ... all without a moment of remorse or self-examination."
Recently Belli has been in discussions with Patrick Reynolds, the grandson of tobacco company founder R.J. Reynolds and president of Los Angeles-based Citizens for a Smoke Free America, who says, "If litigation victories help raise the price of a pack of cigarettes, that will help cut the level of young kids starting up with smoking, then that is just fine with us. Recently the tobacco industry has been enying that cigarettes are addictive. Former Surgeon General C. Everet Coop's 'Report on Nicotine Addiction' states that 'nicotine is as addictive as heroin.' I believe this is a strategy by the tobacco companies to avoid litigation and to keep present customers in denial about their addiction."
Belli and Gauthier also filed today a Temporary Restraining Order and Injunction to stop the tobacco companies from destroying or altering any and all evidence which is in their possession.
United States District Court Eastern District of Louisiana
New Orleans, LA
Diane Castano, Gayle Perry and all others similarly situated
vs. Philip Morris Inc., R.J. Reynolds, et al.
LAWYER BELLI, OTHERS FILE $5B SUIT AGAINST TOBACCO INDUSTRY
30 March 1994
Dow Jones News Service
© 1994, Dow Jones & Co., Inc.
SAN FRANCISCO -DJ- Attorneys Melvin M. Belli, Wendell H. Gauthier Robert Leif said they today filed an international class action suit against America's major tobacco industries.
In a press release, the attorneys said the $5 billion suit charges Philip Morris Tobacco, R.J. Reynolds and other companies with the wrongful deaths and disabilities of thousands who were addicted to nicotine in cigarettes caused both by the natural substance in tobacco "and ... the intentional addition of extra nicotine to keep victim customers addicted in order to keep buying the product."
Belli also said 30 years ago he filed the first suit against the same tobacco companies, also in New Orleans. He said he lost that case because he couldn't prove the addiction of nicotine then but he said he now has "great satisfaction" in filing the current suit. He said the tobacco companies "will finally have to defend themselves against these charges."
Belli said he has recently been in discussions with Patrick Reynolds, the grandson of tobacco company founder R.J. Reynolds and president of Los Angeles-based Citizens for a Smoke Free America, who says, "If litigation victories help raise the price of a pack of cigarettes, that will help cut the level of young kids starting up with smoking, then that is just fine with us..."
Belli and Gauthier also filed today a temporary restraining order and injunction to stop the tobacco companies from destroying or altering any and all evidence which is in their possession.
R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris had no immediate comment.
An attorney for Philip Morris Cos. said he was "not surprised" that Belli and Gauthier would "jump on the publicity bandwagon" created by the "erroneous comments" by Food and Drug Administrator Dr. David Kessler, aired on ABC's "Day One" program.
The program said tobacco companies inject nicotine into cigarettes to make them more addictive. The Philip Morris attorney said Philip Morris doesn't inject its cigarettes and there is "no merit to the substance" of the allegations raised by Belli and Gauthier.
The Philip Morris attorney also said similar suits have been filed against tobacco firms and the tobacco firms have always prevailed.
As reported March 25, Philip Morris has filed a $10 billion lawsuit against Capital Cities/ABC Inc. CCB over what was alleged on the television program.
A spokeswoman for R.J. Reynolds, a unit of RJR Nabisco Inc., said she had not seen the Belli-Gauthier lawsuit. She said that if its claims are based on what was reported on ABC's Day One program, the suit will not be successful.
The spokeswoman said the program claimed tobacco companies inject cigarettes with nicotine to make them more addictive. She said the opposite is true.
She said the process which was alleged to inject nicotine is called reconstituting tobacco sheets. She said cigarettes made with reconstituted tobacco sheets are 30% lower in nicotine than those made with leaf.
The spokeswoman said the company does not add nicotine to its products. She said the production process causes cigarettes to lose nicotine.
She also pointed to a Surgeon General's report, which she said stated the nicotine content in cigarettes has declined 60% over the last 40 years.
She also said RJR is considering a lawsuit against ABC.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the other companies named in the suit were American Tobacco Co., Liggett Group Inc. and Lorillard Inc., a unit of Loews Corp.
American Tobacco declined comment. Liggett and Lorillard couldn't be reached for comment.