Altria Group Inc. argued on behalf of its Philip Morris USA subsidiary that the lawsuits are barred by the federal cigarette labeling law, which forbids states from regulating any aspect of cigarette advertising that involves smoking and health.
However, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority opinion that the labeling law does not shield the companies from state laws against deceptive practices. Stevens was joined in the majority by Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter, and Justice Anthony Kennedy. Thomas, writing for the dissenters, said the lawsuit should be thrown out because it relies on claims about smokers’ health.
The decision forces tobacco companies to defend dozens of suits filed by smokers in Maine, where the case originated, and across the country.The class-action claim represents all smokers of Marlboro Lights or Cambridge Lights cigarettes, both made by Philip Morris.
Altria senior vice president and associate general counsel Murray Garnick said the company still could prevail in these fraud lawsuits. “We continue to view these cases as manageable, and the company will assert many of the strong defenses used successfully in the past to defend against this very type of case,” Garnick said.
Source: The Associated Press