RJR must continue legal payments for old brands

    Photo: Okan Caliskan from Pixabay

    The Florida Supreme Court on Friday declined to hear an appeal by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in a lawsuit rooted in a landmark legal settlement between Florida and leading tobacco companies.

    The Supreme Court’s decision effectively let stand a July decision by the 4th District Court of Appeal that required R.J. Reynolds to make more than $100 million in disputed payments.

    The 1997 settlement forced tobacco companies to pay hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the state because of smoking-related health costs. In exchange for the payments, the companies received liability protections.

    But in the lawsuit, R.J. Reynolds contended that it should not have to make payments to the state related to four brands of cigarettes—Salem, Winston, Kool and Maverick—that it agreed to sell in 2014 to ITG Brands.

    Upholding a ruling by a Palm Beach County circuit judge, an appeals court pointed to a lack of changes in the 1997 settlement that would have freed R.J. Reynolds from making the payments.