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Verdict Sought in Mn. Tobacco Trial

May 5, 1998

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Both the state and tobacco companies filed a flurry of motions Tuesday asking the judge to direct verdicts in their favor in Minnesota’s tobacco trial.

Tobacco companies argued that the plaintiffs have failed to prove their claims to such a degree that the jury need not deliberate.

And the foreign-owned subsidiaries _ B.A.T. Industries PLC, the British parent of Brown & Williamson; British-American Tobacco; and BAT (U.K. & Export) Ltd. _ said the judge should rule in their favor because the plaintiffs did not show they had jurisdiction over foreign companies.

One defendant got its wish when the plaintiffs without explanation dropped their case against BAT (U.K. & Export) Ltd., about which the jury heard little in 14 weeks of testimony.

The plaintiffs _ the State of Minnesota and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota _ also asked for directed verdicts in their favor.

Motions for directed verdicts are common before a case goes to the jury. A judge may direct a verdict if he feels evidence is overwhelming for one side or the other.

Minnesota and Blue Cross claim the tobacco industry conspired to hide the dangers of smoking, marketed to children and manipulated nicotine to keep smokers hooked.

At issue is whether the defendants should pay $1.77 billion that the state says it spent treating smoking-related illnesses. The plaintiffs also seek punitive damages.

Jury instructions were scheduled for Wednesday. If no settlement is reached, the defense was to give final arguments Thursday and the plaintiffs on Friday. The case was to go to the jury after final arguments are complete.

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