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Appeals delay tobacco settlement

April 14, 1999
By: Anna Brutzman
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Appeals against the state's tobacco settlement have thrown another snag in the state's efforts to get its $6.7 billion pay out from the tobacco industry.

The state was notified Wednesday that there will be appeals to a lower-court decision that had paved the way for the state to join in the $206 billion national settlement. The state is facing a Dec. 31, 2001 deadline to resolve any pending state lawsuits -- or face receiving no settlement funds.

On March 5, Circuit Court Judge Jimmie Edwards denied a request by Kansas City, Jackson County, St. Louis and St. Louis County along with dozens of hospitals to intervene in the state's tobacco settlement. They had sought permission to fight in court for a piece of the state's multi-billion dollar pie.

The parties had 40 days to appeal Edwards' denial, and by late Wednesday the City of St. Louis was among dozens who had filed an appeals notice with the attorney general.

The AG's lawyers will have to spend several months in court fighting the would-be interveners over this appeal, Still said. The office would face yet more months in court with if it loses.

"If they win the request to intervene, then they can go to court and ask for part of the money," said Mary Still, spokesperson for the attorney general's office.

Still refused to refer Missourian questions to the attorney general's lawyers who are handling the case.

The state and interveners would argue over the right for these parties to receive money originally intended to replenish Medicare and Medicaid funds spent on the victims of tobacco-related illnesses, said Edwards, who approved the settlement last March.

"This whole case has been a state-aid case," Edwards said. The intervening parties, he said, have argued that some of the settlement money should go toward indigent people not covered by state aid. "They don't want to reverse the settlement, just participate in it -- even though they did not work on it."

Edwards said reimbursement for state aid to the victims of tobacco-related disease is a different issue from reimbursement for aid to the indigent.