DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa’s Attorney General Tom Miller is suing large tobacco companies over a pay-out agreement approved in 1998.

The settlement requires 17 tobacco companies to make annual payments to the state to help pay for the health consequences of tobacco use.

Iowa has collected more than $1.4 billion so far, but Miller says tobacco companies are routinely challenging and delaying payments. He says the legal fight over the payment from 2003 wasn’t decided until 2014.

“We have fought, and won, these legal battles for years, and there is no end to these disputes in sight,” Miller said. “We now must escalate the matter and force the tobacco companies to pay what they owe the state of Iowa.” 

The state is currently owed $133 million but if successful, the lawsuit could bring in more than triple that. Iowa’s False Claims Act allows the state to seek three times the amount of actual damages in the case. The state is also asking for attorneys’ fees and other costs to be paid in the lawsuit.