The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday tossed out a $10.1 billion verdict against Philip Morris USA in which the company was accused of fooling customers into thinking “light” cigarettes are safer than regular cigarettes.
The much-anticipated ruling sent shares of Philip Morris parent Altria Group Inc. (up $3.45 to $77.18, Research) up about 5 percent in heavy trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares hit a 52-week high during the session.
In a summary of its decision, the Supreme Court reversed the verdict and ordered a lower court to dismiss its 2003 judgment, stating that the Federal Trade Commission “had specifically authorized tobacco companies to characterize their products as ‘light’ or ‘low tar and nicotine’.”
George Zelcs, an attorney for plaintiff Sharon Jones, told CNN, “This is not a decision that’s based upon the factual record of this case, but rather the notion that the FTC has pre-empted this issue.”