Altria Group, Inc. : New Hampshire Supreme Court Rejects "Lights" Class Certification Against Philip Morris USA
08/21/2012| 11:00am US/Eastern
The New Hampshire Supreme Court today held that a trial court abused its
discretion in certifying a class of smokers seeking refunds from Philip
Morris USA for the "Lights" cigarettes they smoked.
"The Court recognized correctly that there are too many individual
issues for this case to be treated as a class action," said Murray
Garnick, Altria Client Services senior vice president and associate
general counsel, speaking on behalf of Philip Morris USA. "This court
joins fifteen courts which have rejected these cases on a variety of
legal and factual grounds."
In denying class certification, the court ruled that "between 1976 and
1995, substantial information was available to consumers concerning the
fact that light cigarettes are as harmful to smokers as regular
cigarettes." As a result, the New Hampshire Supreme Court held that,
"the trial court unsustainably exercised its discretion when it ruled
that issues related to individual class members' injuries could be
resolved by common evidence and that common issues would predominate."
Filed more than a decade ago, the class purportedly represented
individuals who purchased "Lights" cigarettes in New Hampshire from
January 1, 1995 through the trial date.
Earlier this year, the Minnesota Supreme Court also ended a "Lights"
class action against Philip Morris USA. In that case, the court
determined that the claim was prevented by the Tobacco Settlement
Agreement signed in 1998.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now prohibits the use of
"Lights" and other descriptors unless a manufacturer receives
authorization to use the terms. The FDA began regulating tobacco
products in 2009 with the passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and
Tobacco Control Act.
This case is Lawrence v. Philip Morris USA Inc., case number 2011-0574.
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