Federal Court Denies Class Certification in Four “Lights” Cigarettes Cases in Multi-District Litigation
Philip Morris USA (PM USA) said today that a federal trial court denied class-certification in four separate cases in which smokers seek refunds for “Lights” cigarettes they smoked.
The district court ruling was issued in the In re Light Cigarette Marketing Sales Practices Litigation, a Multi-District Litigation in which pretrial proceedings in various “Lights” cases are being coordinated in the federal district court in Maine. In his decision today, the judge concluded that “common issues do not predominate” and that class certification was therefore inappropriate for cases originally pending in Illinois, California, Washington DC and Maine. The ruling in the four “exemplar” cases, two of which were selected by plaintiffs, is intended to guide the court and parties in the fifteen remaining cases pending in or awaiting transfer to the Multi-District Litigation proceedings.
“We believed this court ruled correctly in denying class-certification in each of the four cases, including the two cases hand-picked by plaintiffs,” said Murray Garnick, Altria Client Services senior vice president and associate general counsel, speaking on behalf of Philip Morris USA. “As courts around the country have overwhelmingly recognized, cases involving smokers present a wide array of individual issues and are inappropriate for class-action treatment.”
In denying class certification, the court stated “Each state’s class effectively includes everyone who purchased light cigarettes in the respective limitations periods, and this group necessarily includes class members who knew light cigarettes were not healthier than other cigarettes, notwithstanding Defendants alleged representations to the contrary. Those class members were not injured by the Defendants’ misconduct and thus do not have standing. Furthermore, in view of the proliferation of information decrying the health risks of all cigarettes, there is no telling how many potential class members are similarly situated.”
“While the judge has yet to rule on the remaining cases in the Multi-District Litigation, we believe this decision should serve as a persuasive authority in denying class certification in those and other similar cases as well,” Garnick added.
To date, 15 courts in 16 “Lights” cases have refused to certify class actions, dismissed class action allegations, reversed prior class certification decisions or have entered judgment in favor of Philip Morris USA.
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