Close this search box.

Claim Against Estate Offset By Tobacco Company Litigation

Print Article


Beginning in the mid-1990s many states filed litigation against major tobacco companies (or joined existing litigation) seeking reimbursement for the some of the costs of treating smokers. After those lawsuits resulted in recovery of $1.3 billion for the states, a number of smokers (and the families of deceased smokers) filed court actions seeking a share of the settlement money. Those claims have been universally rebuffed—until the family of Geraldine Raduazo came up with an argument that persuaded the New Hampshire Supreme Court that her estate should benefit from the tobacco litigation.

Ms. Raduazo, a lifelong smoker, had developed a number of medical problems relating to her smoking habit. She required extensive medical treatment, and she could not pay for all of it. Like other indigent patients in need of medical care, Ms. Raduazo applied for and received coverage through the Medicaid program. By the time of her death in 1997 she had received $169,765.16 in benefits from Medicaid.

Federal law requires every state to have a mechanism for seeking recovery from the estates of deceased Medicaid recipients, and so the New Hampshire program initiated a recovery action against Ms. Raduazo’s home—the only asset she left in her estate. Because the home was valued at about $60,000 the state’s claim would completely consume the proceeds from its sale, leaving nothing for her family.

Ms. Raduazo’s estate argued that New Hampshire’s share of the tobacco litigation settlement was based at least partly on the claims of smokers like Ms. Raduazo. In effect, argued the estate, New Hampshire had already taken her most valuable property—her claim against the tobacco companies—in satisfaction of any right it might have to recover the cost of medical care from her or her estate. Ms. Raduazo’s estate and heirs might not be entitled to any money from the tobacco settlement itself, the estate reasoned, but the state should not be allowed to also take her home to satisfy the debt.

The probate court sided with the state and dismissed the estate’s claim, but the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed that decision. The final resolution is not yet known, because the higher court directed that the probate court conduct further proceedings. The probate judge must now consider how much of Ms. Raduazo’s illness was related to smoking, what portion of the settlement should be attributed to her claim, and other items as directed by the state’s highest court. Estate of Raduazo, December 18, 2002.

Stay up to date

Subscribe to our Newsletter to get our takes on some of the situations families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities find themselves in. These posts help guide you in the decision making process and point out helpful tips and nuances to take advantage of. Enter your email below to have our entries sent directly to your inbox!

Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

Famous people's wills

Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.