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15 December 2005

Illinois Supreme Court Overturns $10.1 Billion Verdict Against Philip Morris USA
Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP

15 December 2005, Chicago - The Illinois Supreme Court today overturned a $10.1 billion verdict against Philip Morris USA. The plaintiffs had alleged Philip Morris USA (a unit of Altria Group) had violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act in marketing light cigarettes as being less harmful than its regular-strength offerings.

The 4-2 decision overturned a 2003 ruling by a Madison County judge who found Philip Morris liable in a class action lawsuit involving more than one million current and former Illinois smokers. The award was the largest ever in Illinois and was intended to compensate smokers for the cost of light cigarettes purchased during the past 30 years. Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP lawyers appeared as appellate counsel along with lawyers from Winston & Strawn and Burroughs, Hepler, Broom, MacDonald, Hebrank & True, and Kevin Forde.

The Illinois high court ruled that the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act bars any claims based on conduct that is specifically authorized by a federal agency. The Court concluded that "the FTC could, and did, specifically authorize all United States tobacco companies to utilize the words 'low,' 'lower, 'reduced' or like qualifying terms, such as 'light,' " immunizing the use of those terms from claims under the Illinois statute.

The court reversed the judgment and ordered the case dismissed on remand.

Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP lawyers working on the case include Michele Odorizzi, Joel Bertocchi, Michael Forde, William Hubbard, and Todd Lundell.

Sharon A. Price v. Philip Morris Inc.

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