Big tobacco case reinstated in Minnesota

smoking We have closely followed the recent outbreak of Florida suits claiming injuries from smoking, but today we turn our attention to tobacco-litigation news coming out of the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals yesterday gave a green light to a suit claiming that Philip Morris misled smokers by marketing low-tar cigarettes as a healthier form of tobacco.

The court also authorized the suit to proceed as a class action, on behalf of people who purchase Marlboro Lights in Minnesota for personal consumption from 1972 to 2004.

Here’s an article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune about the appellate court’s decision and here’s a piece from the St. Paul Pioneer Press. (Hat tip: How Appealing.)

“An individual consumer cannot take on, alone, a Philip Morris,” Kay Nord Hunt, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers in the case, told the Star Tribune. “So I think it’s very important to the Minnesota consumers … that they can proceed as a class.”

The appellate court’s ruling could also make it easier for Minnesota plaintiffs to bring consumer-fraud and deceptive trade practices claims of all sorts, the Star Tribune reports, noting that the court took a relatively broad view of the types of plaintiffs’ who qualify to bring such claims.

Philip Morris said it was considering an appeal.

“We believe it is inappropriate to give class-action status to smokers’ claims because they raise numerous individual issues that can only be resolved based on the factual circumstances of each individual smoker,” said Murray Garnick, an associate general counsel for Altria, the parent of Philip Morris. “Today’s ruling is contrary to every federal court decision on whether cases such as these should be certified [as a class action] and the overwhelming majority of state court decisions on the issue,” he told the Star Tribune.


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