March 30 , 2011 - British American Tobacco (BAT) has been dropped from a landmark US ruling against the tobacco industry after a judge ruled the law does not extend to the UK company. US District Judge Gladys Kessler granted a request from Europe's largest cigarette maker that under US law BAT is no longer liable under an initial ruling she made in 2006 hat found tobacco companies had breached racketeering laws by collectively deceiving the public about the dangers of smoking.
Background:BAT's lawyers argued that the company, which is based in central London, should be exempt from the ruling because US law did not have the authority to hold a foreign company liable for its actions outside the US.
March 6, 2011 - Department of Justice - tobacco company defendants indeed violated the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)...U.S. federal govt and 3-cigarette makers asked the Supreme Court to review racketeering verdict..
Using a Supreme Court ruling from last year involving National Australia Bank as a precedent, Judge Kessler ruled the US had limited authority in trans-national lawsuits against foreign companies.
"There is no evidence that Congress intended to criminalise foreign racketeering activities," Judge Kessler wrote. However, she ruled that BAT would still have to contribute to some of the legal costs of the US government because it won the original ruling. Philip Pfeffer, a lawyer for BAT, said that it was pleased with the decision.
Reference: BAT scores US court victory by Richard Blackden, US Business Editor , By Richard Blackden, US Business Editor 8:16PM BST 29 Mar 2011, telegraph.co.uk, 3/29/2011.