Mark Anderson of The Wall Street Journal reports today that the United Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in a class action against Phillip Morris involving advertising of light cigarettes. The class action is but one of numerous class action lawsuits in state and federal courts alleging, in essence, that Phillip Morris and other tobacco companies falsely advertised “light” cigarettes as being safer than regular cigarettes. In part, tobacco companies have urged that “the Federal Trade Commission’s regulation of cigarette advertising bars claims under a state law.” A federal district court agreed with Phillip Morris, but the First Circuit reversed. In so doing, the First Circuit created a circuit conflict with a decision out of the Fifth Circuit that barred a similar class action lawsuit. Mr. Anderson quotes a Phillip Morris representative as stating, “A definitive answer to this question will significantly impact the outcome of dozens of pending lawsuits in which the plaintiffs are alleging billions of dollars in potential liability.” The author agrees that the impact on state and federal class action lawsuits against the tobacco industry will be substantial.
Mark Anderson’s article, entitled “Justices to Hear Cigarette Case,” may be found on page A6 of the January 19, 2008 edition of The Wall Street Journal.