ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to review a lower court’s ruling that reinstated a decade-old $10.1 billion verdict in a class-action lawsuit against Phillip Morris USA.
The state’s high court decided Wednesday it would hear arguments involving the April opinion by the Mount Vernon-based 5th District Appellate Court, the Supreme Court’s spokesman, Joe Tybor, confirmed Thursday.
That appeals court ruling revived a 2003 verdict in Madison County that found Philip Morris broke Illinois law by marketing “light” and “low tar” cigarettes as safer than other cigarettes. The lawsuit was the nation’s first to accuse a tobacco company of consumer fraud.
The Illinois Supreme Court later threw out that verdict, saying the Federal Trade Commission allowed companies to characterize or label their cigarettes as “light” and “low tar.” It said Philip Morris could not be held liable under state law even if the terms were misleading or false.
The U.S. Supreme Court let that ruling stand in late 2006, and a Madison County judge dismissed the case the next month.
But in a 5-4 decision in December 2008, the nation’s high court ruled in favor of three Maine residents who said smokers should be able to use state consumer protection laws to sue cigarette makers for promoting “light” and “low tar” brands.
Stephen Tillery, the attorney behind the Illinois class-action lawsuit, has said that decision counted as new evidence and could be applied to reinstate his case.
Subsequent appeals led to the April reinstatement of the verdict.