Vice Squad
Thursday, March 18, 2004
More Tobacco Lawsuits (Yawn)

OK, surely that last post wasn't long and rambling enough, so I will mention two more tobacco company lawsuits. The first is a class action suit in the Illinois state courts, where at the trial level last year the judge ordered Philip Morris to pay, uh, $10.1 billion for misleading smokers into thinking that "light" cigarettes were safer. (Here's an earlier Vice Squad post relating to that case.) Similar cases have been filed in other states, but according to yesterday's Chicago Tribune (registration required)...:

"Since the [Illinois trial court] ruling, Philip Morris, the nation's largest tobacco company, has won pretrial judgments in three states, stopping those class-action suits in their tracks. More than a dozen nearly identical cases are pending across the country.

The company's recent victories place even greater significance on the Illinois class-action case, originating in Madison County, which Philip Morris has appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

The case, accepted by the high court in September, remains the only light cigarette class action to go to trial, providing a road map to other trial lawyers on how to win such suits.

A reversal would be a setback not only for Illinois plaintiffs but for others in other states."

In a battle of the vilified industries, tobacco won one today against asbestos producers in the Supreme Court of Mississippi:

"[Asbestos producer] Owens Corning was trying to recover billions of dollars paid out in asbestos settlement cases by arguing the tobacco industry shared some of the blame for the health problems.

The justices, in a 5-1 decision, sided with Jefferson County Circuit Judge Lamar Pickard, who dismissed Owens Corning's lawsuit in May 2001.

Asbestos companies have blamed cigarette smoking for thousands of workers' injuries costing them millions of dollars in damages."

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