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Judge Plans to Give Suits Class-Action Status

May 16, 1997|(Bloomberg News)

A New York state judge said he plans to let fraud lawsuits against the biggest U.S. cigarette makers proceed and grant them class-action status. New York Supreme Court Judge Charles E. Ramos made his comments at the conclusion of arguments on whether to dismiss lawsuits against the R.J. Reynolds unit of RJR Nabisco Holdings Corp., Philip Morris Cos. and other tobacco companies. The New York-based plaintiffs, who also asked for class-action status, said the companies manipulated nicotine and other cigarette ingredients to addict consumers. Ramos' formal decision is expected in about 60 days. The tentative trial date for the New York tobacco litigation is Nov. 3. . . . In a separate development, Brooke Group Ltd. said its Liggett cigarette unit reached a settlement of a national class-action lawsuit filed against it, and received a preliminary injunction keeping other lawsuits from proceeding against it. The company said its settlement, filed in federal court in West Virginia, is similar to one reached last March with 23 state attorneys general.

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