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    Supreme Court Sides with Big Tobacco

    Justices declined to hear appeal on foreign health suits.

    WASHINGTON

    The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday rejected an appeal by three foreign nations of the dismissal of their lawsuits seeking to recover smoking-related health-care costs from the tobacco industry.

    The justices, without any comment or dissent, declined to hear the appeal by Guatemala, Nicaragua and Ukraine after a U.S. appeals court upheld a federal trial judge's dismissal of their claims, Reuters reported.

    In the appeal, lawyers for the three governments questioned whether sovereign nations should be prevented from proceeding in U.S. courts with claims against the tobacco industry on the grounds the losses they incurred in providing health care to those with tobacco-related illnesses were too "remote."

    The Guatemalan suit named Philip Morris Cos. Inc.; a group of companies affiliated with British American Tobacco Plc; two companies affiliated with Vector Group Ltd.'s Liggett Group Inc; and the tobacco industry's public relations and research organizations, the report said.

    The lawsuit sought unspecified damages under U.S. racketeering laws. Guatemala claimed it incurred unnecessarily high health-care costs between 1973 and 1997 because it was misled by the defendants about the health risks associated with smoking.

    Lawyers for the three nations told the Supreme Court the appeals court was wrong, and they had alleged injuries sufficient to allow the cases to go forward. But tobacco industry lawyers replied that the appeal should be denied. They said the arguments by the foreign governments lacked merit and raised no issue warranting high court review.

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