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New Hampshire Supreme Court Rejects “Lights” Class Certification Against Philip Morris USA

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The New Hampshire Supreme Court today held that a trial court abused its discretion in certifying a class of smokers seeking refunds from Philip Morris USA for the “Lights” cigarettes they smoked.

“The Court recognized correctly that there are too many individual issues for this case to be treated as a class action,” said Murray Garnick, Altria Client Services senior vice president and associate general counsel, speaking on behalf of Philip Morris USA. “This court joins fifteen courts which have rejected these cases on a variety of legal and factual grounds.”

In denying class certification, the court ruled that “between 1976 and 1995, substantial information was available to consumers concerning the fact that light cigarettes are as harmful to smokers as regular cigarettes.” As a result, the New Hampshire Supreme Court held that, “the trial court unsustainably exercised its discretion when it ruled that issues related to individual class members’ injuries could be resolved by common evidence and that common issues would predominate.”

Filed more than a decade ago, the class purportedly represented individuals who purchased “Lights” cigarettes in New Hampshire from January 1, 1995 through the trial date.

Earlier this year, the Minnesota Supreme Court also ended a “Lights” class action against Philip Morris USA. In that case, the court determined that the claim was prevented by the Tobacco Settlement Agreement signed in 1998.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now prohibits the use of “Lights” and other descriptors unless a manufacturer receives authorization to use the terms. The FDA began regulating tobacco products in 2009 with the passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

This case is Lawrence v. Philip Morris USA Inc., case number 2011-0574.

Copyright Business Wire 2010

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