Jessica Karmasek Dec. 4, 2015, 11:14am


BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - A trial in a class action lawsuit filed nearly 20 years ago over claims that cigarette maker Philip Morris USA misled the public into thinking that its product, Marlboro Lights, would have lower levels of tar and nicotine wrapped last week.

According to Courtroom View Network, the trial in the long-running class action Lori Aspinall, et al. v. Philip Morris USA, et al., originally expected to take three weeks, ended up lasting five weeks.

To watch video of the trial, click here.

Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Edward Leibensperger now must decide if the tobacco maker should pay $600 million in damages.

Leibensperger, who heard the case without a jury, indicated he would issue a ruling within the next 60 days, CVN reported.

The class action was originally filed in 1998 on behalf of nearly 200,000 Massachusetts smokers who bought Marlboro Light cigarettes starting in 1994.

The plaintiff class contends Philip Morris, a subsidiary of Altria Group Inc., knew its Marlboro Lights product did not have lower levels of tar and nicotine and intentionally designed it so that most of the cigarette smokers would receive as much, or more, chemicals than if they had smoked regular or other “full-flavored” Marlboro cigarettes.

Lead plaintiff Lori Aspinall and the rest of the class argue Philip Morris designed its Marlboro Lights to produce Federal Trade Commission smoking machine test results that allow the tobacco company to promote the cigarettes as “lights.”

In particular, the class alleges the company modified the design of the cigarettes to include the “strategic placement” of microscopic ventilation holes in or around the cigarette filters.

The plaintiffs allege Philip Morris intended to create an impression in the minds of customers that the cigarettes were “healthier” than regular cigarettes, such as its Marlboro Reds, all the while fully aware that Marlboro Lights would continue to deliver addictive levels of tar and nicotine.

Aspinall’s attorney, Thomas Urmy of Shapiro Haber & Urmy LLP, said during opening statements in October that the evidence would prove the company engaged in a “deliberate and cynical deception of consumers for over 30 years.”

Urmy argued Philip Morris should pay $512 million if Marlboro Lights are proven to be as harmful as Marlboro Reds, and $100 million more -- $609 million -- if it is determined they are more harmful.

Attorneys for Philip Morris, in response, pointed to studies performed by the company and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that proved Marlboro Lights contain less tar and nicotine than Marlboro Reds.

Gregory Stone of Munger Tolles & Olson LLP also argued the plaintiff class suffered no actual injuries.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

Organizations in this Story

Philip Morris USA
6601 West Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23230

Shapiro Haber & Urmy
2 Seaport Lane
Boston, MA 02210

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