While the 1990’s saw a string of very large settlements from class actions against various individual tobacco companies and the tobacco industry in general. One class action settlement in particular involved hundreds of millions of dollars paid to state governments that sued the tobacco industry for the hundreds of millions in Medicaid funds that the states paid to provide medical care for victims of lung cancer and others illnesses caused by smoking.
But what about individual plaintiffs? Can they still sue a tobacco company if they feel that their lung cancer or other types of cancer was caused by smoking?
The technical answer is that anyone can file a lawsuit against anyone else, at almost anytime, for anything. The civil justice system provides that wide access for good reason – -so that no one can be ‘shut out of court’; and so that the average person can take on huge, deep-pocketed defendants. So that injured victims can take on automakers, dangerous product manufacturers, chemical companies, etc. Our constitution and system of justice guarantees us all that right. But the right to file a suit agai9nst someone – and the likelihood of winning that suit – are anything but the same thing. In fact, they’re world apart.