Legal Brief: Liggett Settlement Leaves States With Stake in Tobacco Profits; Illinois Taxpayers Reap Benefits of Tort Reform; O.J. Simpson’s Lawyer Runs Ahead of Suit Parade; Tort D’Jour

Liggett Settlement Leaves States With Stake in Tobacco Profits
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 25 years.

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 Reap Benefits of Tort Reform
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.

O.J. Simpson’s Lawyer Runs Ahead of Suit Parade
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.

Tort D’Jour
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.*

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.