Marketers of “light” cigarettes may be sued, the court ruled.
Ashley Gilbertson for The New York Time
WASHINGTON – Tobacco companies that marketed “light” cigarettes may be sued for fraud, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday in a 5-to-4 decision that will bolster dozens of lawsuits claiming billions of dollars in damages.
The case was brought by three smokers from Maine as a proposed class action. They sued Altria and its Philip Morris USA unit, alleging fraud under Maine’s Unfair Trade Practices Act and saying they had been injured by what they called the false statements of the companies.
They sought compensation for economic rather than medical harm. They claimed, in other words, that they had overpaid for cigarettes based on deceptive advertisements suggesting that “light” cigarettes were safer than regular ones; they did not seek money for injuries caused by smoking itself.