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staff reporter There was no jury. There were no personal injury claims. There was, in the end, however, a $10.1 billion judgment against the nation’s largest tobacco company. Welcome to the future of light cigarette litigation. Maybe. On March 21, Madison County, Ill., Circuit Judge Nicholas G. Byron found that Philip Morris (now part of the Altria Group) fraudulently misled Illinois consumers to think that its Marlboro Lights and Cambridge Lights cigarettes were less harmful to smokers than nonlight cigarettes, when, in reality, they were not. More than a million smokers were represented in the class action filed under the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act. Byron awarded the class $7.1 billion in compensatory damages and assessed Philip Morris $3.1 billion in punitives that will be paid to the state. Price v. Philip Morris Inc., No. 00-L-112. Attorney Michael J. Brickman, a partner in Charleston, S.C.’s Richardson Patrick Westbrook & Brickman, was co-lead counsel for the class. He said the case is a template for future litigation, adding that other “light” class actions are already under way in Illinois, Florida and Massachusetts. Philadelphia attorney Stephen A. Sheller, a partner at Sheller Ludwig & Badey, in 1999 filed the first-ever light-cigarette fraud case, but Pennsylvania’s courts would not certify the class. He called the industry’s behavior “one of the biggest scams in the history of the U.S.” But of Byron’s ruling he said, “Where it will lead? I don’t know.” Robert C. Weber of Jones Day represents R.J. Reynolds. He challenged the viability of the class as certified, calling it unidentifiable. Weber also asserted that the impression that light cigarettes were less dangerous was fostered not by Big Tobacco, but by the American Cancer Society, the National Institutes of Health and by the surgeon general’s office. Altria Associate General Counsel William S. Ohlemeyer echoed Weber and said his company will appeal Byron’s ruling. Altria has already appealed the Florida and Massachusetts certifications. Harris’ e-mail address is <a href=”mailto:[email protected][email protected] .

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