Tobacco trial closing arguments under way
Settlement talks break down
May 7, 1998
Web posted at: 11:31 a.m. EDT (1531 GMT)
In this story
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) -- Closing arguments began Thursday
morning in the $1.77 billion suit by the state of Minnesota
and Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Minnesota against the tobacco
industry. Talks aimed at reaching an out-of-court settlement
broke down overnight, one of the parties confirmed.
At the start of his closing arguments, a defense attorney
asked the jury to "exonerate Liggett," one of the tobacco
firms being sued.
Attorney David Sasseville said Liggett Group Inc. acted
differently than the other tobacco companies. "Liggett was a
lone wolf " in doing health research into smoking, Sasseville
He told the six-man, six-woman jury that Liggett is the only
tobacco company that has admitted there is a "causal
connection between smoking and cancer" and that "nicotine is
"Liggett was not a conspirator," Sasseville said.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota CEO Andrew Czajkowski
said one of the tobacco defendants walked out of the talks.
The impasse, Czajkowski said, was on the industry's request
for immunity from lawsuits from Minnesota counties.
Czajkowski said there is still the possibility that the
settlement talks could start again, but "it is very, very
late now." He added that once the case goes to the jury on
Friday afternoon, the chances of a settlement are "about
A spokeswoman for Minnesota Attorney General Hubert H.
Humphrey III would not confirm or deny that settlement talks
had broken down.
The plantiffs -- seeking reimbursement for money they say
they spent treating smoking-related illnesses -- were to give
their closing arguments on Friday.
The case could go to the jury Friday afternoon.
Correspondent Tony Clark contributed to this report.