Defendants seek to introduce state’stobacco-related investments in trial

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A statistician testified Wednesday that Minnesota’s estimate of the health costs of smoking was highly flawed, including such maladies as smokers’ hemorrhoids, schizophrenia and broken bones.
“These are not on the surgeon general’s list” of smoking-related diseases, said William Wecker, a private consultant hired by tobacco industry defendants to analyze the plaintiffs’ damage calculations.
The model yields a biased result because of the diseases unrelated to smoking, he said.
The state and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota are seeking $1.77 billion they say they’ve spent treating smoking-related illnesses, plus unspecified punitive damages.
The plaintiffs allege the tobacco industry knew the health hazards of smoking, tried to create doubts about the dangers and manipulated nicotine to keep smokers hooked.
Wecker raised questions about the damages model.
He said the state’s calculation of costs for smokers in nursing homes included $108 million for women between the ages of 50 and 94. Wecker said $87 million of that was extrapolated from the cases of two 94-year-old women.
One of those women, he said, smoked for only eight years from age 30 to age 38 and smoked only four cigarettes a day. The woman was admitted to the nursing home at age 93 with dehydration, anxiety, psychosis and other ailments not considered by the surgeon general to be smoking-related.
The other 94-year-old started smoking at age 80 and quit a year later, he said. She entered the nursing home at age 87 with depressive disorder, paranoia and other mental disorders not considered to be smoking-related.
“Plaintiffs use the age, whether they smoked or not, how long they were in the nursing home. That’s it,” Wecker said in explaining how the damages were calculated. “It looks like another type of bias.”
Outside the courtroom, tobacco defendants filed a motion Wednesday that jurors be told the state and Blue Cross have millions of dollars invested in tobacco-related securities.
The defendants filed a motion asking Ramsey County District Judge Kenneth Fitzpatrick to admit into evidence two charts summarizing tobacco-related investments of the plaintiffs.
The investment both before and after the lawsuit was filed in 1994 “underscores the inconsistency between plaintiffs on the one hand challenging the actions of the tobacco industry and on the other seeking investment gain from tobacco companies,” defense attorney Peter Sipkins wrote.
The summary charts show the Minnesota State Board of Investment held tobacco-related investments worth more than $195 million in 1993. The charts show Blue Cross in 1992 owned tobacco-related investments worth more than $13 million.
In 1995, the year after the lawsuit was filed, the plaintiffs continued to hold tobacco-related investments totaling more than $140 million, the defense said.