Shares of


(MO) - Get Altria Group Inc Report

were down almost 3% after the Illinois Supreme Court refused to hear its appeal in the class-action "light" cigarette lawsuit.

Altria's Philip Morris had asked the high court to directly hear its appeal of a $10.1 billion verdict against the company, bypassing lower courts. But the company will have to go through ordinary procedures.

"We will now proceed to the intermediate court and present our very compelling arguments why this verdict should be reversed and the class should be decertified," said William S. Ohlemeyer, a spokesman for Philip Morris, in a statement. The Illinois Supreme Court didn't issue commentary on its decision.

On March 21, an Illinois judge ordered Altria to pay $10.1 billion in compensatory and punitive damages in a class-action suit that alleged the company claimed "light" cigarettes were safer than "full flavor" ones. Altria has had to put up a $6 billion bond in order to secure its appeal. The company was initially asked to put up a $12 billion bond, but said that would force it into bankruptcy.

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Tobacco stocks rallied in May after a Florida court threw out a $145 billion judgment against five cigarette makers. But Thursday morning, Altria was off $1.17, or 2.7%, at $42.52. Other tobacco stocks were down as well.

R.J. Reynolds

( RJR) was down 69 cents, or 2%, at $35.27;


( LTR) was behind 32 cents, or 0.7%, at $46.77, and

British American Tobacco

(BTI) - Get British American Tobacco PLC Sponsored ADR Report

was down 36 cents, or 1.6%, at $21.65.