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    Illinois Supreme Court Denies Rehearing of Philip Morris Suit

    Altria Group Inc. unit was accused of defrauding consumers into thinking "light" cigarettes were safer than regular smokes.

    CHICAGO--The Illinois Supreme Court denied a plaintiff's petition to rehear a case in which it threw out a $10.1 billion verdict against Philip Morris USA over the marketing of certain cigarettes, reported Reuters.

    The initial $10.1 billion judgment in the class action case, in which the Altria Group Inc. unit was accused of defrauding consumers into thinking "light" cigarettes were safer than regular smokes, was handed down against Philip Morris by a trial court judge in March 2003, according to the report.

    The court overturned the verdict in December and ordered a lower court to dismiss the case. A divided Supreme Court at that time ruled that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission had authorized tobacco companies to characterize their products as "light" or "low tar nicotine." The court said a section in the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act exempts a company from being punished for behavior allowed by a specific regulatory body, according to the report.

    Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case argued that the FTC was never asked specifically whether that was its universal policy on the issue.

    In his dissenting opinion, Justice Freeman wrote he believes "that this court's judgment may have been erroneous."

    "The court's denial of the petition for rehearing does not speak well of this court. It is disappointing and will ultimately prove to be embarrassing. History will be the judge," Freeman wrote.

    Analysts have said in the past it was unlikely the Illinois Supreme Court would rehear the case. But filing for a rehearing in state court is a standard step before trying to bring a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, reported Reuters.

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