The courtroom was crawling with them, two dozen lawyers from New York, Baltimore, and Washington trying to convince a federal judge that tobacco companies cannot be held responsible in the U.S. courts for the medical bills of foreign smokers.

“I started to try to calculate the billing rates by the hour, but I couldn’t count that high,” says George Fleming, who represented the plaintiff, the Republic of Guatemala, in a recent hearing before Judge Paul Friedman in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

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