Attorney General Tim Fox announced April 13, 2020, that his office filed suit in Lewis and Clark County District Court to hold several tobacco companies accountable for millions of dollars owed to Montana under the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement.
“No one gets to take money from Montana’s citizens, particularly when that money is owed for serious corporate wrongdoing, and especially when that money is intended to keep Montanans safe and healthy,” Attorney General Tim Fox said. “The $43 million these tobacco companies have wrongfully withheld could have been used to prevent Montanans from developing lung diseases that now make them potentially more susceptible to COVID-19, or insure more of our children earlier and longer. It is unconscionable that more Montanans could live healthier lives if it weren’t for the intentional deception of these companies,” Fox added.
Twenty-two years ago, Montana and every other state and territory in the country sued the largest tobacco companies for many decades of lethal deception about the health hazards of smoking. Their deception caused the deaths of many Montanans, leaving the state to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in related healthcare costs. As part of the historic settlement agreement, the tobacco companies promised annual payments to Montana and to restrict marketing practices. In exchange, Montana ended its lawsuit.
David Paoli represented the State of Montana in that historic litigation. He and his partners have continued to represent the State of Montana in its fights against these tobacco companies ever since. David and his firm represented Montana in a dispute over funds withheld from one year’s payment that lasted from 2006-2012 and in a similar dispute that lasted 2017-2018.
The payments from the tobacco companies fund smoking prevention and cessation programs and other critical health programs. These programs protect the health and safety of children by working to prevent them from becoming “replacement smokers.” The agreement ending the lawsuit from Montana and the other states is called the Master Settlement Agreement. Montana uses the annual settlement funds for a variety of public health programs, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, smoking cessation and prevention programs, suicide prevention, children’s mental health programs, and communicable disease programs.
For more than a decade, the tobacco companies have broken the settlement agreement and improperly withheld millions of dollars owed to Montana. This year’s payment was due on April 15, these tobacco companies, true to form, withheld several million more on April 15, increasing the amount they owe Montana to $48 million.
David Paoli and his partners have worked with four Montana Attorney Generals and their staff to secure better results for Montana than any other state has been able to obtain in disputes with the tobacco companies over the Master Settlement Agreement. Paoli & Leisher are proud to represent the people of Montana in holding these tobacco companies accountable for their bad acts that damage public health and public funds.
Montana’s Motion to Enforce and Brief are available to read online.
More information about the distribution of Montana’s tobacco settlement money is available online: https://leg.mt.gov/content/Publications/fiscal/leg_reference/Brochures/tobacco-settlement-2018.pdf