The tobacco industry had urged a federal appeals court late last year to throw out a lower court decision allowing the government to seek money for allegedly misleading the public about the dangers of smoking.
The federal government brought the lawsuit, now being heard in U.S. District Court, under a civil racketeering statute originally designed to prosecute mobsters. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the civil RICO statute doesn't allow the government to recover money in the ongoing lower court case because RICO statutes require "forward-looking remedies." Seeking the money, it ruled, was a remedy "aimed at past violations."
Both tobacco industry and Justice Department officials declined immediate comment on the ruling.