The well-publicized settlement negotiated by state attorneys general
with the Liggett Tobacco Company has some interesting secondhand effects.
The settlement basically requires anyone injured by Liggett's cigarettes
in the past or future to give up their claim; only the states can expect
to be reimbursed for some of their costs, which may or may not be shared
with the individuals. However, as part of the settlement, the states agreed
to accept 25 percent of Liggett's pre-tax income each year for the next
The not-so-well-hidden irony is that the deal makes the states major shareholders in an industry they so vehemently oppose. The hypocrisy of saying a product kills people and then jumping on board to share in the profits seems to be lost in the headlines. The fact remains that the states now have a vested financial interest in the tobacco companies future profitability
Illinois taxpayers and consumers are saving more than $150 million this
year and it looks even better for next year, thanks to tort reform, according
to a study released by the Illinois Civil Justice League. The 1995 Tort
Reform Law has created a large reduction in frivolous lawsuits, while the
rights of citizens with legitimate claims were still consistently honored.
Illinois residents are enjoying the benefits of a 63 percent reduction in
product liability suits and a 39.6 percent reduction in suits involving
medical malpractice and can look forward to even greater savings next year
when these percentages do not reflect the resulting rush to file before
last year's reforms took effect.
Johnnie Cochran, who defended O.J. Simpson against murder charges, continues
his quest for "truth" as he joins the pack of Louisiana lawyers
hunting down clients after a capsized barge allegedly exposed citizens to
toxic chemicals. The Baton Rouge Advocate reports that Louisiana officials
are on the lookout for improper soliciting of clients by attorneys. Meanwhile,
nearby students and residents report that they have been contacted by lawyers
seeking clients. Southern University's infirmary has also had calls from
lawyers requesting information on students treated after the spill. Cochran
says he started getting calls at his California office and then called a
local attorney to jump on the bandwagon to file class action suits in East
and West Baton Rouge. It seems the publicity Cochran enjoys from the Simpson
case lets him chase ambulances nationwide without even leaving his office.
A woman in Wheeling, West Virginia, one night called the folks she thought she could trust the most - the local police. But when an officer sued her for $1.4 million after slipping on her front steps, claiming he injured his back, head, body chemistry and psyche, she changed her opinion. The suit was later settled for an undisclosed amount, but the defendant, a 76 year-old widow, remains frightened and hopes she never has to call "911" again.*