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RICHMOND, Va. -- A St. Louis jury today failed to return a verdict in the Missouri "Lights" class-action case against Philip Morris USA (PM USA). As a result, the judge declared a mistrial.
"After 11 years of pre-trial proceedings and a month and a half of testimony, today's mistrial shows that the plaintiffs failed to convince a jury of their claims," said Murray Garnick, Altria Client Services' senior vice president and associate general counsel, speaking on behalf of PM USA. "We continue to believe that these claims are baseless, and today's mistrial shows that we have powerful defenses in these 'Lights' cases."
In this lawsuit, originally filed in February 2000, plaintiffs alleged that PM USA violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act by using the terms "Lights" and "Lowered Tar and Nicotine" on packages of Marlboro Lights. The plaintiffs sought to recover a portion of the money paid by Missouri residents who purchased Marlboro Lights cigarettes from 1995 to 2003.
"We believe this class should never have been certified," Garnick added. "All federal courts and seven state courts have refused to certify these types of cases as class actions, recognizing that there are too many individual issues to make these a workable class action."
Earlier this year, 13 other "Lights" claims that were consolidated in a multi-district litigation in Maine were dismissed after a federal judge denied class certification, saying that "common issued do not predominate," PM USA noted.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) previously permitted descriptors such as "Lights" and "Lowered Tar and Nicotine" that were based on results from the FTC's Test Method. However, as of June 2010 under U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulation, manufacturers can no longer use such descriptors on packaging, advertising and labels.
Today's mistrial came in the case of Larsen v. Philip Morris USA.