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NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE AS LAWSUITS LOOM

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NEW YORK-State attorneys general and the tobacco industry are continuing settlement talks as the trial date for the first of the states' suits against the cigarette manufacturers draws near.

The negotiations are focusing on tobacco companies' future liability and how much they would pay to settle lawsuits related to treating smoking-related illnesses. While reports have put the settlement amount at $300 billion to $400 billion, an attorney involved in the talks recently said such figures were not yet on the table (BI, May 12).

Negotiators are hoping to craft a settlement, which likely will need congressional approval, before the first trial is scheduled to begin in Mississippi in early July.

A committee headed by Louisi-ana Attorney General Richard Ieyoub has met to discuss whether to also pursue insurers of tobacco companies to contribute to any settlement. Mr. Ieyoub named 100 insurers in his state's lawsuit seeking to recover the costs of treating smoking-related illnesses. Insurers, though, deny liability for smoking claims, citing a tobacco-liability exclusion developed for most policies in 1966 (BI, March 31). As negotiations continue, a class-action lawsuit scheduled for trial this week in Dade County Circuit Court seeks $5 billion on behalf of around 60,000 current and former flight attendants who were exposed to secondhand smoke while working.

The case differs from those brought on behalf of smokers, who tobacco companies have successfully argued assented to the risks of smoking because they were aware of warnings on cigarette packages.