Light Cigarettes and More

In a decision that opens the door to a new wave of lawsuits against tobacco companies the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday ruled that consumers can sue Altria Group’s Philip Morris unit under state unfair-trade laws even though cigarette labeling is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). According to reports, the decision (Altria Group Inc. v. Good) could affect some 40 lawsuits around the country seeking billions of dollars. In a 5-4 ruling the Supreme Court held that the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act does not bar or preempt state court lawsuits. The class action lawsuit claimed that Philip Morris engaged in unfair and deceptive practices in its representations that certain brands of cigarettes are light or have lowered-tar and nicotine. The case sets the preemption pendulum swinging once more. You will recall at the core of the Wyeth v. Levine case (arguments heard in November) is whether federal law preempts state product liability law. For more on preemption, check out the Wall Street Journal law blog.

Meanwhile, if you’re trying to pick out the 10 most significant insurance coverage decisions of 2008, attorney Randy Maniloff, of law firm White and Williams LLP has done just that in his 8th Annual Insurance Coverage Best in Show. Maniloff has also put together a special report Coverage for Dummies: The Top Ten – that looks at the 10 best decisions from 2008 demonstrating that people sometimes do dumb things and then seek insurance coverage for the consequences. An entertaining read.

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