A 2003 court case in Illinois awarded a $10 billion judgment against Phillip Morris for lying about the safety of its “low-tar” cigarettes. That decision got overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2006, but now an appeals court has breathed life back into the case by ruling that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision now changes the playing field legally.
It’s complicated, and I’m not sure I’m going to explain it 100 percent correctly, but here’s the gist of it. The Illinois Supreme Court had found that the descriptive terms for the cigarettes were permitted by the Federal Trade Commission and thus did not break state law. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to accept the plaintiffs’ appeal.
However, though in a 2008 decision regarding a lawsuit in Maine, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an “identical” Philip Morris defense, so plaintiffs’ lawyers successfully argued that the Illinois case should be looked again in light of that ruling.