Scuffle of the week

The US Justice Department and the tobacco companies. President Clinton is launching a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against cigarette firms to try to recover medical costs incurred as a result of smoking-related diseases. US Attorney General Janet Reno says the US taxpayer should no longer bear the estimated £13bn medical cost. Cigarette companies are labelling the fight a "blatantly political move". Meanwhile stockbrokers are advising against buying tobacco shares. The move resurrects hope for tobacco victims in the UK who want the British government to follow Clinton's example. A civil action brought by lung cancer victims represented by London personal injury firm Leigh Day & Co spluttered to a halt in the High Court earlier this year after Mr Justice Wright ruled the majority of claimants fell outside the period of limitation. Two years ago a settlement agreed between US state legislatures and tobacco companies whereby the tobacco companies received immunity from privately brought litigation in return for paying out £154bn over 25 years was slated as a "pittance" and a "sweet deal" by the American Trial Lawyer's Association.