Firmly rejecting Big Tobacco’s attempts to extricate itself from a long-running lawsuit, a federal judge has declared that she does indeed retain jurisdiction in the case, despite a 2009 law giving the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco, and refused to bow out of the controversy.
In a 26-page opinion, Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected the tobacco companies’ assertions, calling them unconvincing. In 2006, the judge concluded that the companies were guilty of racketeering because they had concealed the dangers of their products for years. Questions still unresolved focus on how Big Tobacco should make amends.
Kessler concluded in 2006 that Reynolds American’s R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Inc. and Altria, which owns Philip Morris USA Inc., had violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, popularly known as RICO, and had to stop using terms like “low tar” and “light” in selling their products.
She noted in her latest opinion, issued on Wednesday, that her findings had been upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Kessler seemed particularly unpersuaded by the defendants’ assertions that the 2009 law makes them unlikely to commit future RICO violations.
A spokesman for Altria said it was reviewing its appeal options, Reuters reported. The intentions of the other companies were not immediately known.