Cigarette Decision to be Appealed by Philip Morris

It has been more than a decade since the state of Illinois brought legal action against cigarette-maker Philip Morris and accused the tobacco giant of deception and fraud. Because it advertised its low-tar and light cigarettes as healthier than regular cigarettes, the state’s lower court ruled that the company had indeed misled the public once it was determined that the low-tar and light varieties were just as toxic, if not more so than the regular tar cigarettes it manufactured. Unhappy with the verdict that awarded more than $10.1 billion in damages, Philip Morris appealed the case all the way to the state’s Supreme Court, which overturned the ruling in the company’s favor.

However, Philip Morris’s celebrations arguably were short lived as a state appellate court once again brought life to the case and reinstated the original monetary penalty. The 5th district appellate court took into consideration the petitions of three Maine residents who argued that consumers should indeed have the right to use state consumer laws to determine whether to use a product or not. The Illinois Supreme Court initially reported that Philip Morris could not be expected to adhere to a state’s consumer protection laws; however, the appellate court disagreed and reinstated the original ruling.

Of course, this appellate action is not being taken lightly by the tobacco heavyweight. Philip Morris executives have expressed outrage that an appellate court could be as brash as to throw out a ruling made by the state’s Supreme Court. The company has vowed to take the case once again to a higher court, thus putting the monetary penalty on automatic stay until the case is once again heard and resolved.

Throwing another wrench into the appellate court’s decision is the argument posed by the company’s attorney, Murray Garnick. Garnick argues that the original case was improperly classified as a class action suit, which could jeopardize the judgment altogether. This mislabeling of the case, along with the alleged overreaching of the 5th district appellate court, could cause the entire original case to be thrown out, thus freeing Philip Morris from any financial or legal responsibility.

In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court also took note of the case in 2006, letting the decision of the state’s Supreme Court stand. This fact could also put the appellate ruling of the court’s three judges into questionable status. The company has vowed to continue its legal fight as it prepares once again to take the ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court for further review.