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Insurance Co.'s Lawsuit against Big Tobacco Underway

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A trial that pits Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield against the tobacco industry is underway in New York, the Associated Press reported March 26.

Empire is New York's largest insurance company. In its lawsuit against Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and other cigarette makers, Empire is seeking $800 million in damages. Empire claims the tobacco companies conspired to conceal the risks of smoking.

In opening statements, Empire attorney Paul Baschorr argued that the tobacco industry had “repeatedly lied and deceived the American public” over the last 40 years. He said that the deception by Big Tobacco has resulted in a multitude of insurance claims for lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases.

“Now it's Empire's turn to submit a bill to the tobacco industry,” Baschorr said.

Lawyers representing the tobacco companies countered that their clients never conspired to hide the hazards of smoking.

The trial is expected to last two months.

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