U.S. Supreme Court

Tobacco Maker Loses Removal Bid


A cigarette company may not transfer a class-action lawsuit to federal court based on the federal government’s regulation of light cigarettes.

The suit against Philip Morris targeted the marketing of Marlboro Lights and Cambridge Lights, the Wall Street Journal reports (sub. req.). The plaintiffs contended the company misrepresented the amount of tar and nicotine in the cigarettes, violating the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The tobacco maker sought to transfer the action out of the Arkansas state courts under a law allowing removal to federal court when a private person acts under a federal officer.

Philip Morris had argued the Federal Trade Commission was a federal officer because it oversaw a voluntary agreement setting standards for light cigarettes.

Justice Stephen Breyer rejected that argument in his opinion for a unanimous court, Watson v. Philip Morris (PDF), No. 05–1284.

“In our view, the help or assistance necessary to bring a private person within the scope of the statute does not include simply complying with the law,” Breyer wrote for the court.

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