Judge derails Madison County tobacco suit once worth $10.1 billion [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]By Marlon A. Walker, St. Louis Post-DispatchMcClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Dec. 12--EDWARDSVILLE -- A Madison County judge decided Wednesday not to allow reopening of a class-action lawsuit that once won a $10.1 billion judgment against tobacco giant Philip Morris but was overturned on appeal.
Judge Dennis Ruth said the plaintiffs failed to show that information revealed in subsequent cases involving "light" cigarettes would have changed the outcome of this one. Lawyers argued in a hearing in August over reinstating the case. At that time, Ruth ruled out a request that he simply reinstate the $10.1 billion amount.
"The trial court correctly recognized that the plaintiffs could not meet their burden of proof to reopen the judgment," said Murray Garnick, speaking on behalf of Philip Morris USA. "Specifically, the plaintiffs did not show that they would have been successful before the Illinois Supreme Court."
A call seeking comment from the plaintiiffs' attorney, Stephen Tillery, or his law firm, Korein Tillery, in St. Louis was not returned.
Judge Nicholas Byron, now retired, had ordered the huge compensatory and punitive damages in 2003, after a two-month trial over whether the company violated an Illinois law by marketing "light" and "lowered tar and nicotine" cigarettes as safer options. The case originally was filed in 2000. It was the first time a tobacco company lost a consumer fraud suit.
In 2005, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the judgment, based on a defense claim that the Federal Trade Commission had authorized the wording for cigarette descriptions. The suit was dismissed the next year, after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the verdict.
Tillery's firm sought to revive it in 2008, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a different suit, involving Philip Morris parent company Altria Inc., that the FTC never authorized use of the terms "light," "low" or "reduced."
The Madison County case languished for several years, with both sides battling over whether the Illinois Supreme Court decision in 2005 or the local court's dismissal in 2006 started the clock on a two-year appeal deadline.
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