The Seoul Central District Court rejected South Korea’s National Health Insurance Service’s (NHIS) request to seek KRW53.7 billion ($48 million) from KT&G and local units of British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International for compensation to offset the NHIS’ treatment costs resulting from smoking-related diseases.
The NHIS announced that it intends to appeal the District Court’s ruling. The NHIS originally filed the lawsuit in 2014, which sought reimbursement for treatment of long-time smokers who suffered diseases such as lung cancer.
The court’s decision noted that the NHIS is not a direct victim and therefore has no right to seek damages from the cigarette makers. The court added that the NHIS failed to prove a direct connection between the patients’ diseases and their smoking and concluded that there was insufficient proof that the cigarette makers produced “flawed” products.
“The outcome is extremely shocking and deplorable,” said NHIS President Kim Yong-ik. “We want to have a legal confirmation about the clear damages caused by smoking, but it was not as easy as we had expected.”