People who were part of the class-action suit against major tobacco companies can probably begin to look for their money in March after a judge ruled that the $130 million awarded last year can be sent out.

The plaintiffs and the defendants in DeLoach vs. Phillip Morris USA, et al are now in negotiations over issues including buying intentions.

Philip Morris and five other tobacco companies agreed to settle out of court in May 2003 over allegations that they fixed prices at auction before February 2000. The companies denied wrong-doing in agreeing to the out-of-court settlement. While R.J. Reynolds, which is now Reynolds American after a merger with Brown & Williamson, didn't settle at the time, the company settled with the plaintiffs before going to trial in April 2004.

PM, Brown & Williamson and Lorillard agreed to purchase 405 million pounds annually for the next 12 years if a tobacco buyout occurred when they settled the lawsuit out of court in 2003.

e-mail: cyancy@primediabusiness.com