Illinois court dismisses $10.1 billion verdict against cigarette company

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Jan. 23, 2006

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The Illinois Supreme Court tossed out a $10.1 billion jury verdict against Philip Morris USA, reversing a trial court finding that the company had made misleading claims about the risks of light cigarettes.

The Illinois high court in December 2005 ruled that Philip Morris may not be held liable under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act because the Federal Trade Commission authorized the use of terms such as "light" for the company's Marlboro Lights brand.

Doctors and attorneys backing the plaintiffs said they were "disappointed," adding that the court incorrectly had interpreted the FTC agreement. The court strictly interpreted state law and did not deal with the company's deceptive marketing practices.

The American Medical Association/State Medical Societies Litigation Center, along with several public health organizations, filed a friend-of-the-court brief that supported the plaintiffs. The brief said the company's advertising poses "devastating" public health risks.

Attorneys on both sides of the issue agree, however, that the Illinois Supreme Court ruling was a narrow decision in an unusual case that did not claim any damages for cigarettes' negative health effects. They also said they don't expect the opinion to set a precedent for lawsuits in other states.

The ruling could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Stephen Tillary, lead plaintiff attorney, could not be reached for comment.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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