Altria Group, Inc. : Altria : NH Supreme Court Rejects Class Certification in 'Lights' Suit
08/21/2012| 11:48am US/Eastern
By Ben Fox Rubin
Altria Group Inc. (MO) said the New Hampshire Supreme Court rejected class certification in a case against subsidiary Philip Morris USA.
The case, filed more than a decade ago, sought refunds from the cigarette maker for its "lights" cigarettes. The class would have included individuals who bought "lights" cigarettes in New Hampshire from Jan. 1, 1995, through the trial date. Altria said the state's Supreme Court found that a lower court abused its discretion in granting a class action.
"The court recognized correctly that there are too many individual issues for this case to be treated as a class action," Altria attorney Murray Garnick said. "This court joins 15 courts which have rejected these cases on a variety of legal and factual grounds."
Earlier this year, the Minnesota Supreme Court also ended a "lights" class action against Philip Morris. In that case, the court determined that the claim was prevented by the Tobacco Settlement Agreement signed in 1998, Altria said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration now prohibits the use of "lights" and other descriptors unless a manufacturer receives authorization to use the terms.
Altria, the maker of Marlboro and other cigarette brands, has continued to benefit from growing interest in smokeless products such as Copenhagen, while sales of its cigarettes have been mixed.
The tobacco industry's cigarette volumes have been declining for years and a weak economy and high unemployment continue to pressure consumer disposable income, though cigarette producers have had success cutting costs and raising prices to bolster profits.
Last month, the company said its second-quarter earnings more than doubled on higher smokeless volume and as domestic cigarette shipments outperformed the broader industry.
Shares were down 10 cents at $35.08. The stock is up 18% so far this year.
Write to Ben Fox Rubin at email@example.com
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