The United Seniors Association, a conservative organization representing senior citizens, has filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry seeking to recover more than $60 billion in Medicaid claims arising from tobacco-related illnesses, the New York Sun reported Feb. 23.
The lawsuit alleges that tobacco companies lied about nicotine addictiveness. The United Seniors Association agreed to sign on as the plaintiff in the lawsuit after the AARP declined to do so. The lawsuit could potentially cost the industry $120 billion, and the seniors' group said that 99 percent of any proceeds from the case would be turned over to the U.S. Treasury.
“One of the issues we're very concerned about is where corporations are involved in misconduct that forces the taxpayer to become an insurer,” said United Seniors chairman Charles Jarvis. “In this case, what you have is a decades-long purposeful suppression, and that is the fact about nicotine being not only psychologically addictive, but physically addictive.”
The lawsuit drew fire from some other conservatives. “This is frivolous,” said the American Enterprise Institute's Theodore Frank. “I really don't know what is in United Seniors' heads in doing the trial lawyers' bidding like this.”
Manhattan Institute scholar Walter Olson added: “I don't think the overwhelming majority of the conservative movement knows this group is out on this particular frolic and detour. It announces a retroactive and radical theory that tobacco sellers were certainly not informed of at the time.”
Jarvis replied that “our involvement in a taxpayer protection suit like this regarding the tobacco industry is completely consistent with our concern about frivolous lawsuits.”