Court Gears Up for Giant Tobacco Case

ST. LOUIS (CN) – St. Louis City Court is looking for jurors who can serve for 6 to 7 months in what’s expected to be one the longest civil trials in the court’s history. A group of area hospitals sued the tobacco industry in a $1 billion trial set to begin in January.

     The court mailed out 6,000 surveys to potential jurors, to help weed out people for whom jury duty would be a hardship, for reasons such as health problems, child care, work or travel commitments.
     Court officials estimate that about 10 percent of recipients will become potential jurors. A second survey, aimed at discovering biases, will be mailed to that group in November. Final jury selection is to begin Jan. 10.
     The case was filed in 1998; pretrial arguments have lasted for nearly 13 years.
     The hospitals claim cigarettes cause illness and they want the cigarette makers to reimburse them for caring for smokers who were not insured or who did not pay their bills.
     The tobacco companies claim that the hospitals were not the ones damaged by the cigarettes and cannot collect for someone else’s health problems.
     The case could set precedent for hundreds of similar cases throughout the country.

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