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Published: Friday, 3/19/2004

OC tobacco case does not get 2nd hearing

FROM BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

The Mississippi Supreme Court yesterday upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Toledo's Owens Corning 6 1/2 years ago against cigarette makers, saying the suit showed no antitrust injuries.

OC, which filed for bankruptcy in 2000 because of mounting asbestos liability claims, had sued several tobacco firms, contending they conspired to hide information about the addictive properties and health dangers of tobacco, which contributed to lung cancer and other diseases suffered by people who worked with asbestos.

The suit asked cigarette makers to pay $24 billion to compensate smokers.

In its opinion, the Mississippi court noted lower court opinions that rejected OC's argument, saying the firm had no legal basis for its claim of damages for injuries not directly suffered.

The Toledo Fortune 500 firm, one of many companies that has sought bankruptcy protection because of asbestos claims, asked the court last fall to revive the case, which was similar to one it filed in 1997 in California.

That case has been on hold pending the outcome of the Mississippi case.

The decision yesterday could "mark the end of major third-party litigation against the tobacco industry," Philip Morris USA said in a statement.

Among the defendants, besides Altria Group's Philip Morris, were R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Loews Corp.'s Lorillard Tobacco unit, and Vector Group Ltd.'s Liggett Group.



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