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Philip Morris Faces New Suit

Latest Illinois filing almost a mirror of earlier action

May 7, 2003 | AP

Another lawsuit has been filed in Madison County accusing Philip Morris USA of misleading smokers into believing that "light" cigarettes are safer than full-flavored brands.

The lawsuit was filed Friday, six weeks after the New York company lost a record $10.1 billion verdict for deceiving Illinois consumers of Marlboro Lights and Cambridge Lights. That verdict is under appeal.

The new suit seeks class-action status and covers more than 20 Philip Morris brands, including Marlboro Medium, Benson & Hedges Lights, Virginia Slims Lights and Parliament Lights.

John Mulderig, an attorney for Altria Group Inc., parent company of Philip Morris, called the new suit "a carbon copy" of the first one.

He said the only difference between the two suits is the cigarette brands named.

"This is why the plaintiff class-action bar in Madison County finds that word processing is their favorite activity," he said.

On March 21, Madison County Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron ordered Philip Morris to pay $10.1 billion. Byron found that Philip Morris committed consumer fraud in marketing its Marlboro Lights and Cambridge Lights cigarettes as less harmful than regular brands.

Philip Morris' attorneys argued that the light brands showed lower levels of toxins when tested on a Federal Trade Commission machine, and that it used the word "light" to refer to taste, not content.

The law firm that won the $10.1 billion verdict, Carr Korein Tillery of Belleville, will represent plaintiffs Linda Arnold, Sherry Oliver, Barbara Whitehead, Allison Papa and Terri Edrington in the new case.

The Illinois Supreme Court recently implemented a new rule that could work in Philip Morris' favor. The rule allows a defendant in a class-action lawsuit to appeal its certification before the case goes to trial.

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