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Legacy Foundation Wins Decision Over Tobacco Company

Legacy Foundation Wins Decision Over Tobacco Company

WASHINGTON—A Delaware judge has sided with the American Legacy Foundation
in its legal jousting with Lorillard Tobacco Co. The judge denied Lorillard’s
request to stay or dismiss a lawsuit filed by the foundation in a series of
court maneuvers that began in January. His ruling would allow the Legacy
lawsuit to go forward before one filed in North Carolina by Lorillard against
the foundation.

At issue is whether the foundation’s aggressive advertising campaign,
called "Truth," violates a provision of the Master Settlement
Agreement (MSA), which resolved the lawsuits filled by 46 states, the District
of Columbia, and several US territories against the big tobacco companies.

The settlement created the American Legacy Foundation—which under the MSA
is funded by the tobacco industry—as an educational body to alert the public,
and particularly the young, about the health hazards of tobacco use.

An ‘In-Your Face’ Campaign

The Legacy Foundation’s in-your-face "Truth" campaign—which,
for example, has run a TV commercial showing a group of young adults piling up
body bags outside a tobacco company office—has won several awards, including
one for best public service announcement of the year from the trade magazine
Advertising Age
. However, a provision of the MSA prohibits the Legacy
Foundation from making any personal attacks on tobacco company employees or
vilifying the tobacco industry.

On January 18, Lorillard gave the foundation 30 days notice, as required by
the MSA, that it would file suit to block the "Truth" campaign
because, the company said, it violated the MSA’s vilification clause.
Lorillard filed the suit on February 19.

Before that, however, the foundation filed suit in the Delaware Court of
Chancery in New Castle County on February 13 asking for a declaration that
Lorillard had no right to sue it under the terms of the MSA. Lorillard then
asked the Delaware court to stay or dismiss the foundation’s action so it
could pursue its lawsuit in North Carolina. The Court of Chancery handles legal
disputes between entities incorporated in the state. Both Lorillard and the
foundation are incorporated in Delaware, Legacy as a nonprofit corporation.

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