At a press conference in Helena on Monday, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox announced that his office had filed suit in Lewis and Clark District Court to hold several big tobacco companies liable for millions of dollars owed through the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement.

“Almost before the ink was dry (on the Master Settlement Agreement) the tobacco companies once again began using deceptive behaviors to evade their contractual responsibilities under that bargain,” Fox said. “Montana discovered in 2018 that the tobacco companies for over a decade withheld in bad faith millions of dollars they owe Montana through the Master Settlement Agreement, and that is why we’re looking to recover over $43 million dollars in property withheld from Montana.”

Fox said the payments from the tobacco companies help to fund smoking prevention and cessation programs and other critical health programs.

Fox, when asked about a possible timeline for the lawsuit against big tobacco, said it would probably be a very long time before Montana sees any money from the lawsuit.

“I would anticipate that true to form, these companies will do everything in their power to delay, deflect, and try to stalk this litigation,” he said. “Fortunately, we are in state district court and I think our judicial system is somewhat fed up with these companies, but I don’t have a timeline,” he said. “It likely will not go to trial before I am no longer Montana’s Attorney General.”