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Judge OKs Class Action vs. Tobacco

September 20, 2002 GMT

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NEW YORK (AP) _ In an unprecedented move, a federal district court judge has certified a nationwide, punitive-damage class-action lawsuit against the tobacco industry.

The case, known as Simon II, consolidates all the tobacco-related litigation before U.S. District Court Judge Jack Weinstein to include the punitive-damages claims of all types of plaintiffs, including individual smokers, labor unions and health insurers. The certification was issued late Thursday.

Under a new law, the case will automatically be appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. It will likely be months before that court will make a decision.

The case is named after lead plaintiff Ellis Simon, who has lung cancer. The plaintiffs allege the tobacco industry’s use of deceptive marketing practices caused smokers’ sicknesses and addictions. With the class certification, Simon II will represent anyone in the United States who has smoked, whether they became ill or not, since 1920.

Defendants in the case are Philip Morris Cos.; R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc.; Lorillard Tobacco, a unit of Loews Corp.; Brown & Williamson, a unit of British American Tobacco PLC; and Liggett Group, a unit of Vector Group Ltd.

Tobacco stocks were trading lower on the news. At midday, shares of Dow component Philip Morris were off 4.1 percent at $42.86, while shares of Carolina Group, the stock that tracks Lorillard’s performance, shed 5.5 percent to trade at $20.70.

In a written statement, Philip Morris said it will ask the appellate court to reject the class certification of the case and dismiss the claims.