Judge Declares Mistrial in 700 Million Tobacco Lawsuit

A Missouri judge declared a mistrial in a class action lawsuit against tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris USA because the jurors had still not come to a decision after five days of deliberation. The Missouri lawsuit was first filed in 2000 and included claims that the cigarette company had misled smokers through its claims that “light” cigarettes were safer than regular cigarettes.

While other tobacco companies have employed similarly misleading language by advertising “light” or “low tar” cigarettes, the St. Louis personal injury lawsuit specifically focuses on Philip Morris. It alleges that Philip Morris was in violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act due to its false claims that its Marlboro Lights contained less tar and nicotine than its Marlboro Reds.

Since being filed in 2000, the Missouri lawsuit had undergone eleven years and several twists and turns, including an appeal and several trips to the federal court. And while St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael David put an end to the current litigation cycle, the case can still be retried. And according to the plaintiffs’ attorney, there are already plans in the works to begin retrying the class action lawsuit.

And while the associate general counsel for Philip Morris suggested that the mistrial demonstrated that the plaintiffs had failed to convince the jury of the tobacco company’s negligence, the jury was just one vote shy of convicting the cigarette company. While Illinois courts require an unanimous decision in civil lawsuits, Missouri juries only require nine jurors, i.e. a 9-3 verdict.

However, securing that one extra vote might not prove so easy for the Missouri plaintiffs. The current mistrial is just one of several similar lawsuits filed around the country, the majority of which undergo complex and lengthy litigation. For example, in 2003 a Madison County, Illinois judge entered a $10.1 million judgment against Philip Morris for the marketing of its “light” cigarettes. However, in 2005 the Illinois Supreme Court overturned that ruling and the case has been in appeal ever since.

Or consider another Missouri class action lawsuit filed against six cigarette companies. The thirty-plus hospital plaintiffs were attempting to recoup money they had lost treating charity patients for smoking-related illnesses during the seventeen year period of 1993 to 2010. While the defendants only presented three witnesses, the plaintiffs’ lengthy evidence resulted in a 2 ½ month trial. Yet at its conclusion, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the tobacco companies.

But there is still hope for the Missouri plaintiffs claim regarding Philip Morris’s misleading advertising of its Marlboro Lights. In June 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began prohibiting cigarette companies from using the terms “low tar” or “light” in their advertising and cigarette packaging. While the Missouri lawsuit focuses on the period of 1995 to 2002, it has been reported that during that timeframe over 700 million packs of Marlboro Lights were sold in Missouri alone.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois personal injury lawsuits for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Tinley Park, Orland Park, Richton Park, and Niles.

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