The U.S. Supreme Court let stand on Monday a ruling that threw out a $10.1 billion verdict against Philip Morris USA in a lawsuit that accused the Altria Group Inc. (MO.N: Quote, Profile, Research) unit of misleading consumers about the risks from smoking “light” cigarettes.
The justices rejected an appeal by the plaintiffs of the Illinois Supreme Court ruling in December that ordered the dismissal of the class action lawsuit that accused the company of defrauding customers into thinking “light” cigarettes were safer than regular ones.
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has authorized tobacco companies to characterize their products as “light” or “low tar and nicotine.”
It said a section in the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act exempts a company from being punished for behavior allowed by a specific regulatory body.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. “The Illinois Supreme Court erred in interpreting federal law as giving any authoritative legal effect to” the consent orders entered into by the FTC and specific tobacco companies, they said.