Thursday, October 4, 2007

Altria's Supreme Court Ruling: A Non-Event

Normally a loss before the Supreme Court for tobacco companies like Altria (MO) would be catastrophic, this time however it means nothing.

On Monday Altra issued the following statement:

"Today's United States Supreme Court decision not to review the Engle decision at this time is not a decision on the merits of the case, but rather was based on the current procedural posture of the case, and does not preclude Supreme Court review at a later stage in the litigation once some individual cases are tried, according to William S. Ohlemeyer, Philip Morris USA vice president and associate general counsel.

Philip Morris USA will offer a vigorous defense against any former Engle class member who elects to bring an individual suit against the company. The company expects to have additional appellate options if any of those individual cases are tried, including a renewed request for review by the nation's highest court.

"Each plaintiff who files suit still must prove liability on the part of the defendants including, among other things, that the use of a particular company's cigarettes caused their illness and that the company's conduct prevented them from making an informed choice to smoke," Ohlemeyer said.

Last July, the Florida Supreme Court decertified the Engle class and reversed the state court jury's award of $145 billion in punitive damages because, as a matter of law, the class certification and award were improper and excessive. However, the court gave former class members one year to file separate individual lawsuits against the defendants in the Engle case and preserved certain findings from the Engle class action trial.

"Some Florida plaintiffs' attorneys, in advertising for clients, gave the false impression that former Engle class members need only file a lawsuit to collect damages. Nothing could be further from the truth."

"Philip Morris USA intends to defend any and all such cases that may be filed. Each case will require an inquiry into whether those filing lawsuits are actually members of the former Engle class and a detailed examination of the facts behind each individual claim," Ohlemeyer said."

Simply put the curt decoded not to review it NOW, but still may do so later. In other words, they said "come back next year."

blogger templates | Make Money Online