Tobacco Industry Is Fighting off More Lawsuits From Individuals and More Types of Claims

Between 1994 and 1998, investigators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School, Madison, Wis., used legal, social, and economic analyses to assess the feasibility, benefits, and costs of alternative private law strategies to enhance and upgrade control of tobacco.

The study examined the proliferation of new initiatives in private tobacco litigation since 1994.

It traced the presence of various features of this litigation, including the contingency fee, coordination and competition among plaintiffs' lawyers, the class action device, and the private attorney general device, and assessed their influence in the specific environment of tobacco litigation.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national program Tobacco Policy Research and Evaluation Program.

Key Findings

The study concluded that private law—legal measures enforced by citizens rather than officials—may be a valuable component in tobacco control because it enables multiple courses of action by individuals who can undertake innovative and even risky initiatives without securing official approval or competing for priority with other political commitments.