Illinois Court Reinstates $10 Billion Verdict over Deceptive Marketing of “Low Tar” and “Light” Cigarettes

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Nearly 10 years after its dismissal, a $10 billion class-action ruling has been reinstated against a leading cigarette manufacturer accused of misleading consumers about “light” and “low tar” products.


The lawsuit targeting Philip Morris USA began in 2000, with 1.4 million plaintiffs alleging the tobacco company used deceptive marketing techniques to promote light cigarettes. It was the first time a tobacco company was accused of consumer fraud.

A state trial court ruled against Philip Morris, owned by Altria Group, which was ordered to pay $10.1 billion in damages and attorney fees.


Philip Morris appealed the ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court, which overturned the decision, saying the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) allowed companies to characterize or label their cigarettes as “light” and “low tar.” The plaintiffs then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to revive the case, but it refused.


In 2008 though, the nation’s highest court ruled in another case that supported smokers’ rights to sue cigarette makers for promoting “light” and “low tar” brands. Also that year, the FTC rescinded a four-decade-old policy dictating how cigarette makers could describe tar and nicotine levels in their advertising and packaging.


That gave the plaintiffs in the Philip Morris case new legal grounds to request that the Fifth District Court of Appeals reinstate the judgment, which it did.


But the matter is still not over. Philip Morris plans to ask the Illinois Supreme Court to review the state appellate court’s decision.


 “Almost 10 years ago, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the Price judgment as contrary to Illinois law,” Murray Garnick, Altria Client Services senior vice president and associate general counsel, said in a prepared statement. “The Fifth District Court of Appeals’ decision…conflicts with that ruling and essentially overrules a decision of a higher court.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Ill. Court Reinstates $10B Judgment against Philip Morris over ‘Light’ Cigarettes (by Kyla Asbury, Legal Newsline)

Altria to Appeal Revived $10.1 Billion 'Light' Cigarette Verdict (by Jonathan Stempel, Reuters)

With 1,200 Deaths a Day, Tobacco Companies Finally Agree to Publish Ads Admitting They Lied about Dangers of Smoking (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Tobacco Industry Objects to Having to Admit it Lied about Dangers of Smoking (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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