Jessica Karmasek Sep. 8, 2016, 11:48am


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Legal Newsline) - A $45 million settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit against Philip Morris USA accusing the cigarette maker of deceiving consumers.

The class plaintiffs, among other things, alleged Philip Morris deceived them by advertising Marlboro Lights as being safer and having less tar and nicotine than other cigarettes.

According to a Pulaski County Circuit Court news release, Philip Morris denies the allegations in the lawsuit. The court has not decided who is right.

The deal includes all persons who purchased Marlboro Light or Marlboro Ultra Light cigarettes in the state of Arkansas for personal consumption from Nov. 1, 1971 through June 22, 2010.

Class benefits include the $45 million settlement fund, which will be used to make payments to class members and for the cost of administration of the settlement, attorneys’ fees and litigation costs, and class representative fees.

The Thrash Law Firm of Little Rock, Houston firm Williams Kherkher Hart Boundas LLP, Lovelace and Associates PA of Destin, Fla., and Provost Umphrey Law Firm LLP of Beaumont, Texas, have been appointed class counsel.

The firms will make their requests for fees with the court.

Payments will be made to class members who file valid claims and will be calculated as follows:

- Ten cents per pack for each pack purchased between Nov. 1, 1971 and April 17, 1998;

- Twenty-five cents per pack for each pack purchased between April 18, 1998 and April 18, 2003; and

- Ten cents per pack for each pack purchased between April 19, 2003 and June 22, 2010.

The final value of each claim may be adjusted depending on the number of claims filed.

The plaintiffs claim the litigation has afforded other, non-monetary benefits, including the removal of Marlboro Lights and Marlboro Ultra Lights from the market.

Class members can file a claim online, download a claim form from the website or call a toll-free number and ask that a form be mailed to them.

Claims must be filed online no later than midnight Central Time Dec. 1. Forms sent by mail must be postmarked on or before Dec. 1.

Those class members who do not want to be legally bound by the settlement must exclude themselves by Nov. 1. Class members also may object to the settlement by Nov. 1.

A court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 21 to consider whether to approve the settlement.

Last year, the Arkansas Supreme Court was forced to weigh in on whether the class action could proceed.

The state’s high court, in its Feb. 26, 2015 ruling, upheld the Pulaski Circuit Court’s decision certifying the class action.

The circuit court certified the plaintiffs’ class action against Philip Morris based on the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Philip Morris appealed the class certification.

The cigarette maker, in its appeal to the high court, argued that each element of the plaintiffs’ ADTPA claim -- misrepresentation, causation and damages -- contained “overriding” individual issues that destroy predominance.

“We conclude that proof of misrepresentation does not turn on each class member’s smoking habit because the key inquiry under the ADTPA focuses on the defendant’s actions,” Associate Justice Rhonda K. Wood wrote for the state Supreme Court. “We further conclude that any individual issues regarding causation and damages can be addressed, if necessary, using the bifurcated approach.

“And we agree that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion when it reached the same conclusion: ‘The other issues raised by [Philip Morris] in an attempt to negate predominance are downstream of the common, predominate threshold allegation of the plaintiffs: that Marlboro Lights, as designed, manufactured, advertised and sold, were misrepresented.’”

Simply put, the class action is a “superior” method to adjudicate at least some parts of the plaintiffs’ cause of action, the court said in its 6-1 decision.

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

Arkansas Supreme Court
625 Marshall St
Little Rock, AR 72201

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