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FLORIDA COURT DECERTIFIES TOBACCO CLASS ACTION.

A Florida appeals court decertified a class action against Philip Morris USA Dec. 32, ruling plaintiffs who alleged they were deceived by advertising of "light" cigarettes did not have enough in common.

"We find that the trial court erred in certifying this lawsuit as a class action," the Fourth District Court of Appeals held.

The court agreed with Philip Morris that "whether or not a smoker reaped the benefits of a lower tar and nicotine cigarette depended upon how the cigarettes were smoked and even why the 'light' cigarettes were chosen by the particular smoker."

The per curiam opinion in John P. Hines and Delores Howell v. Philip Morris USA (4D02-941) said the record supports the manufacturer's "contention that the manner in which the cigarettes were smoked and the smoker's reasons for choosing to smoke 'light' cigarettes could preclude an individual smoker's entitlement to damages and, thus, would be legitimate issues raised in defense."

Plaintiffs claimed Philip Morris introduced its Marlboro Lights and Ultra Lights "low tar" cigarettes because published scientific studies linking smoking to cancer put the company under pressure "to create doubt about the health charge without actually denying it."

They said the cigarette maker used the term "light" based on tests using a smoking machine which produced results differing from those among actual smokers.

The company countered that some smokers bought the cigarettes because of the taste, rather than for any health reasons, and even the would receive less tar and nicotine than they would from regular cigarettes.

A similar class action was brought in Illinois, where Philip Morris was found liable and ordered to pay $10.1 billion in damages. The verdict is being appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.
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Publication:Liability & Insurance Week
Date:Jan 5, 2004
Words:284
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