Monday, December 15, 2008

Light Cigarettes Are Bad For You Too Dept.

The United States Supreme Court issued its opinion today in Altria Group v. Good, No. 07-562.* The Court held that the plaintiffs' fraud claims against the makers of "light" cigarettes were not preempted by a federal cigarette labeling law. In other words, people can sue tobacco companies for claiming that light cigarettes pose fewer health risks.** Justice Kennedy swung this case to the left.

Though the plaintiffs in this case are from Maine, Massachusetts plays a supporting role.

One of the key precedents the majority had to find its way around is Lorillard Tobacco Co. v. Reilly, 533 U.S. 525 (2001). That case concerned Attorney General Tom Reilly's attempt to regulate cigarette advertising. The Supreme Court held that this is a job for the federal government, not the states. In today's decision, the majority states that the Lorillard case is distinguishable because it involved state regulation and this involves a private plaintiffs' common law claims.

We have one of these light cigarette cases pending in Massachusetts right now, Aspinall v. Philip Morris, SJC No. 9981. The SJC put it on hold until the Altria case was decided. So we'll see what happens there.

*As of now, this link loads v-e-r-y slowly.
**Feel free to be totally outraged by this or not.

No comments: