10 May 2002

Marshall Islands Supreme Court throws out tobacco damages claim

3:05 pm on 10 May 2002

The Marshall Islands government has lost a landmark case against the American tobacco industry.

The country's Supreme Court has returned a final judgement upholding a lower court's dismissal of what was presented as a potential multi-billion dollar damage suit.

The case collapsed, according to both courts, for lack of specific evidence.

The Marshall Islands had sued a group of American tobacco companies including the American Tobacco Company, Philip Morris Incorporated and others.

The court ruling said in part a court cannot hold tobacco liable for engaging in legal activities - that is, selling and distributing cigarettes in the Marshall Islands.

The courts said without evidence linking tobacco's allegedly illegal activities to claims of damages, the courts decline to consider the government's claims beyond summary judgement."

In its suit the government had claimed that smoking had increased the level of tobacco-related illnesses that the government must provide health services to treat.