Advertising Law

More than Five Years After Reversed $10.1 Billion Judgment, Illinois Tobacco Case Is Revived

An Illinois appeals court helped revive a dismissed Illinois tobacco class action case that resulted in a $10.1 billion judgment in 2003.

More than five years after the state supreme court dismissed Price v. Philip Morris Inc., the case was given another chance in the Fifth District Appellate Court of Illinois on Feb. 24, the National Law Journal reports. The plaintiffs were motivated to refile the case after finding that a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision discredited the basis of their ruling. In 2008’s Altria Group Inc. v. Good (PDF), the Supreme Court held that a federal law regulating cigarette advertising did not pre-empt a Maine state law forbidding deceptive ads. The Illinois appeals court, relying partly on the 2008 high court decision, allowed Price v. Philip Morris Inc. to proceed, according to the National Law Journal.

The plaintiff class claimed that deceptive Philip Morris advertising harmed them by conveying that “low tar or nicotine” or “reduced” cigarettes were safer than average cigarettes, the National Law Journal says. In March 2003, the circuit court of Madison County awarded 1.14 million members of the plaintiff class $10.1 billion in compensatory and punitive damages, prejudgment interest and attorney fees. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed the verdict in December 2005. The plaintiffs later petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, which the high court denied in November 2006, and the trial court ultimately dismissed the case Dec. 18, 2006.

The plaintiffs’ petition for relief from judgment was filed Dec. 18, 2008, three days after Altria Group Inc. v. Good was decided. The trial court dismissed the plaintiffs’ petition because it was not filed within two years of the Illinois Supreme Court’s 2005 ruling, but the appeals court disagreed, saying the two-year clock began running for the plaintiffs the day after the trial court dismissed the case.

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