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Reynolds’ tobacco suit tab $512 million

Philip Morris USA Inc., the No. 1 cigarette maker, disclosed in November it spent $1.1 billion on external defense costs during the same period.
/ Source: The Associated Press

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc. spent more than a half-billion dollars in tobacco-related lawsuits from 2000 through 2002, according to a financial report.

The parent company of the nation’s second largest cigarette maker spent $512 million to defend itself in the lawsuits, Reynolds said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission last week.

Philip Morris USA Inc., the No. 1 cigarette maker, disclosed in November it spent $1.1 billion on external defense costs during the same period.

The disclosure by Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds came in response to a SEC request seeking additional information about tobacco-related litigation and other matters, the company said.

Reynolds Holdings said late last year there were more than 4,000 cases pending against it, including about 1,061 individual smoker cases in West Virginia, which have been consolidated. The figure also includes nearly 2,800 lawsuits by flight attendants alleging secondhand-smoke damage.

The expense figures aren’t related to payments the company makes as part of its share of the industry’s $200 billion settlement with 46 states in 1998.

The SEC is seeking more details beyond the company’s total litigation expenses, but Reynolds Holdings hasn’t provided such a breakdown, citing attorney-client privilege and competitive concerns.

A federal judge had a hearing on the conflict earlier this month, Reynolds spokesman Seth Moskowitz said. No date was set for a ruling on the matter.