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Tobacco Industry Owes Millions for Care, Hospitals Say

Wednesday, 13 Apr 2011 01:58 PM

(Updates with lawyer’s remarks in third paragraph.)

April 13 (Bloomberg) -- Tobacco companies cost Missouri hospitals millions of dollars to care for patients with smoking- related illnesses who can’t pay their medical bills, a lawyer said in closing arguments of a lawsuit.

The city of St. Louis, along with more than 40 area hospitals, sued Altria Group Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Tobacco Co. and other cigarette makers, claiming they manipulated the nicotine content in cigarettes and misrepresented the health effects of smoking.

The tobacco companies “sell their defective products here and they take their money back to North Carolina, Virginia or wherever,” Kenneth Brostron, a lawyer for the hospitals, said today in St. Louis. “They are responsible for what they did and it’s about time they take responsibility.”

The industry’s actions boosted the amount spent on “unreimbursed and uncompensated tobacco-related health care,” the hospitals said in court papers. The tobacco companies deny any responsibility for patient care costs at the hospitals or any financial losses by the hospitals. The suit, which doesn’t include patients as plaintiffs, went to trial in January.

The case is the third such health-care cost-recovery claim to reach trial, according to regulatory filings by Altria. The industry won the first, in Ohio, in 1999. The second initially resulted in a $17.8 million award for a health insurer by a New York jury in 2001. That was reversed on appeal in 2004.

‘Competition for Smokers’

“Smoking has nothing to do with the criteria for what hospitals charge,” Carl Rowlett, attorney for Lorillard, said at the start of trial. “The competition for smokers is so fierce, that many hospitals advertise for smokers.”

The hospitals, which provide care to indigent and non- paying patients, represent the majority of licensed, adult acute-care hospital beds in Missouri, according to the complaint. The hospitals said medical ethics requires them to serve people in need regardless of their ability to pay.

Tobacco companies should reimburse the hospitals for care provided to patients who are unable to pay and are suffering from tobacco-related illness, the plaintiffs said. Hospitals also should “recover the increased costs incurred to providing all health-care services” as a result of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke, according to the complaint.

The case is City of St. Louis v. American Tobacco Co., CV 982-09652-01, Circuit Court, City of St. Louis, Missouri.

--Editors: Andrew Dunn, Fred Strasser

To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Southfield, Michigan, at mcfisk@bloomberg.net; Joe Whittington in St. Louis at joethewhitt@sbcglobal.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

© Copyright 2017 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

 
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(Updates with lawyer’s remarks in third paragraph.) April 13 (Bloomberg) -- Tobacco companies cost Missouri hospitals millions of dollars to care for patients with smoking- related illnesses who can’t pay their medical bills, a lawyer said in closing arguments of a lawsuit....
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Wednesday, 13 Apr 2011 01:58 PM
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