Verdicts & Settlement

$10.1B verdict against maker of light cigarettes in 2003 is resurrected and appealed

A St. Louis lawyer who succeeded in getting an Illinois appeals court to reinstate a $10.1 billion verdict against a maker of light cigarettes is fighting to preserve the judgment.

Lawyer Stephen Tillery’s $10.1 billion verdict against Philip Morris in 2003 was a record amount in Illinois, the Chicago Tribune reports. His consumer-fraud class action sought a refund of money consumers spent on light and low-tar cigarettes in the mistaken belief they were safer. Tillery’s legal team would earn $1.8 billion if the appeals court ruling reinstating the verdict remains undisturbed.

The Illinois Supreme Court had tossed the verdict in 2005 on the ground that the Federal Trade Commission had authorized tobacco companies to use words like “light” and “low,” the Tribune says. Tillery argues that a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court pre-emption ruling in a different cigarette suit shows the FTC never authorized use of the terms “light” and “lower tar.”

Tillery wasn’t able to persuade a trial judge to reinstate the verdict, but he succeeded in the 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon. Now Philip Morris is asking the Illinois Supreme Court to accept the case and reverse the appeals court’s April 29 ruling.

In late May, Tillery filed a motion seeking recusal of one of the justices who voted to toss the verdict in 2005, the story says. He alleges Justice Lloyd Karmeier was elected in 2004 with the help of Philip Morris and its supporters, which “funneled” almost $3.4 million into the judicial race. Philip Morris responds that Phillip Morris, its affiliates and their employees “never gave a penny” to Karmeier’s campaign.

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