Smoking companies must fund cessation program

Jessica M. Karmasek Jun. 28, 2011, 1:51pm

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied to review a Louisiana class action judgment that ordered the nation's major cigarette companies to fund a statewide 10-year smoking cessation program.

The Court's decision in Philip Morris USA Inc., et al. v. Deania M. Jackson followed a stay of the judgment issued by the Court in September.

Its ruling lets stand 2010 and 2007 decisions by the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ordering the companies fund the smoking cessation program at the cost of more than $270 million.

The original lawsuit was filed in 1996.

In their petition to the Court in December 2010, the cigarette companies asked "whether the Due Process Clause prevents state courts from employing the class-action device to eliminate fundamental substantive and procedural protections that would otherwise apply to adjudications of class members' individual claims."

The companies argued that no one in the class was required to prove the elements of an individual claim. They also noted in their petition that both class representatives had already quit smoking well before the time of trial.

The Court declined to answer the question and included the case on its list of certiorari denied Monday.

Philip Morris USA, as one of the four defendant tobacco companies, is responsible for 25 percent of the judgment.

The other companies include R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company; Brown & Williamson Holdings, an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of British American Tobacco; and Lorillard Tobacco Company.

In a statement Monday, Philip Morris said a third party administrator will be appointed by the court to administer the cessation program and that the company already has set aside $30 million.

"Philip Morris USA is disappointed that the Court declined to hear our arguments because we believe the decision in this case rests on a series of constitutional violations and is fundamentally unfair," Murray Garnick, Altria Client Services senior vice president and associate general counsel, speaking on behalf of PM USA, said in a statement.

"It's important to note that Philip Morris USA prevailed on the largest claim, medical monitoring, and that the original verdict has been subject to appeals for seven years. The judgment today is less than a quarter of what the court originally awarded, but still has been calculated without regard to the likely number of class members who will be interested in participating in the program."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at

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