September 17, 1997
Public Citizen Comments on President Clinton’s Statement About the Tobacco Deal
Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen, released the following comment about President Clinton’s statement on the tobacco deal:
“The President is right to insist that there be major improvements in the tobacco deal. But there was a deafening silence from him about people’s legal rights under the deal.
“The President said that in any tobacco deal ‘we’re trying to change America and make everybody whole.’ His silence about people’s legal rights leaves the impression that he will support a plan that would leave people in pieces.
“Civil liability — the ability to sue for damages — will be snuffed out under the proposed deal. Class actions and any consolidation of cases would be barred and punitive damages for past industry wrongs eliminated. In effect, these changes, in combination with a number of other pro-tobacco measures, would make it so prohibitively expensive for any individual to sue the tobacco industry that the companies are given virtual immunity from any future liability. The President should clarify his position: are the massive changes to the civil justice system in the June 20 deal, all of which greatly favor the tobacco industry, acceptable if the President’s five points are satisfied?
“We are also concerned that the President failed to specifically state that document disclosure should occur before serious consideration is given to passing legislation. Keeping policy makers and the public ignorant of such critical information before legislating is tantamount to legal malpractice.”