Hill & Knowlton named in NY state tobacco lawsuit

ALBANY: Hill & Knowlton has been named as a codefendant in a dollars 3.4 billion lawsuit brought by a healthcare industry group and nearly 150 hospitals that seek reimbursement for the cost of treating uninsured patients suffering from tobacco-related illnesses.

ALBANY: Hill & Knowlton has been named as a codefendant in a dollars 3.4 billion lawsuit brought by a healthcare industry group and nearly 150 hospitals that seek reimbursement for the cost of treating uninsured patients suffering from tobacco-related illnesses.

ALBANY: Hill & Knowlton has been named as a codefendant in a

dollars 3.4 billion lawsuit brought by a healthcare industry group and

nearly 150 hospitals that seek reimbursement for the cost of treating

uninsured patients suffering from tobacco-related illnesses.



The 168-page lawsuit, brought by the Healthcare Association of New York

State (HANYS) and 147 private hospitals, paints H&K as ’the virtual

trade association for tobacco companies,’ according to HANYS. It claims

that the tobacco industry and its agents marketed and sold cigarettes

and smokeless tobacco products despite knowing that the products are

harmful, addictive and lead to serious illness and death.



Filed in State Supreme Court in Nassau County March 30, the suit also

seeks to recover costs of care provided to Medicaid and Medicare

patients whose plans did not fully cover their treatment.



’Hospitals have borne enormous costs above and beyond Medicaid,’ said

HANYS VP of corporate communications Jeannie Cross. ’This lawsuit is

seeking redress for that.’



A spokesman for H&K referred calls to COO/CFO Mark Thorne, who did not

respond by press time. A Brown & Williamson spokesman said the company

had not yet seen the suit, but added that courts have thrown out similar

third-party suits.



He cited a ruling in an Oregon case last summer, where the Ninth Circuit

US Court of Appeals found that union trust funds don’t have the standing

to sue tobacco companies for fraudulent misrepresentation. ’The third

party has not been injured,’ he said. ’The person entitled is the person

directly injured.’



Cross countered that the hospitals have indeed suffered. ’The harm is

very direct here - we can quantify that,’ she said. As for H&K’s role,

she said the firm spearheaded the creation of the Tobacco Industry

Research Committee, which denied claims made by tobacco’s critics. ’The

committee was a PR tool, not a research group,’ Cross said. ’H&K was

more than just a firm hired to do PR.’



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