Law Suit Against Tobacco Companies Joined by Public Health Intervenors

From November 2005 through March 2010, the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund led a coalition of six tobacco-control groups named as “public health intervenors” in a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against tobacco companies. The suit—tried under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)—alleged that the defendants had engaged “in a lengthy, unlawful conspiracy to deceive the American public about the health effects of smoking and environmental smoke.”

On August 31, 2006, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the industry had defrauded the American people and imposed remedies designed to prevent further fraud. However, the court decided that case law prevented it from imposing significant financial penalties sought by the Justice Department and the public health intervenors. The court’s judgment was upheld on appeal, and allowed to stand after the Supreme Court refused to hear the case in June 2010.

Key Results

With legal guidance from outside counsel, the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund and five other public health intervenors filed multiple legal briefs and other supporting documents during the trial and appeals phases of the case. The public health intervenors:

  • Proposed remedies that went beyond those proposed by the Department of Justice, including prohibitions on industry marketing and advertising practices and industry funding for smoking cessation programs.
  • Recommended the substance and language of corrective statements that the district court ordered the industry to publish in newspaper and television ads, on websites and in other media.
  • Filed an appeals brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on December 10, 2007.
  • Petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.