Tribal Tobacco Case Dismissed

A federal court in Texas dismissed a lawsuit filed by an American Indian tribe against major U.S. tobacco companies seeking reimbursement for treatment of tobacco-related diseases.

The dismissal came a month after a federal court in New Mexico dismissed a similar suit, brought by a pueblo and 44 other tribes, cigarette maker Philip Morris Cos. Inc. said yesterday.

Both courts found that American Indian tribes should not be able to recoup money for the health problems of tribe members -- decisions that fall in line with previous federal rulings that dismissed attempts by organizations such as labor unions to recover money for members with alleged tobacco-related illnesses, the Associated Press reported.

In an order dated Aug. 30 and filed on Aug. 31, U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield in Beaumont, Texas dismissed a case filed by the Alabama Coushatta Tribe of Texas.

On July 30, U.S. District Judge Edward Mechem in New Mexico dismissed a case filed by the Acoma Pueblo and 44 other tribes, nations and pueblos, seeking damages for health-care expenses, according to New York-based Philip Morris.

The cases were filed against Philip Morris, the world's top tobacco company, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc., Brown & Williamson, a unit of British American Tobacco Plc, Loews Corp's Lorillard Tobacco Co. Inc. and Vector Group Ltd.'s Liggett Group Inc., according to court documents and Philip Morris.

In the dismissal of the tribal case in New Mexico, Mechem said the tribes'claimed injuries were legally too indirect and remote, adding the tribes were trying to recover monies belonging to the federal government, not to themselves, Philip Morris said.

The dismissals follow a July ruling, when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding a lower court decision, said American Indian tribes are not entitled to a separate share of the $200 billion tobacco settlement between 46 states and cigarette makers.
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