After yesterday’s surprise Supreme Court decision in Altria Group v. Good, a 5-4 ruling that state law claims that tobacco companies deceptively market “light” or “low tar” cigarettes are not preempted by federal law, reaction was swift.
The trial lawyers’ group the American Association for Justice lauded the decision, saying it protected consumer’s rights.
“Today’s decision is a victory for consumers and affirms that cigarette manufacturers cannot claim immunity from consumer fraud when they claim their products have lowered tar and nicotine levels, even though they do not,” AAJ President Les Weisbrod said in a statement. “State laws have an important role to play in helping the federal government police false claims, and today’s decision supports that role.”
Weisbrod went on to say he hopes the Court will follow the same reasoning in future cases. Another closely-watched preemption case involving claims over FDA-approved drugs, Wyeth v. Levine, is still pending.
The tobacco company Altria expressed disappointment in the decision. But it also pointed out that the case has yet to be decided on the merits.
“While we had hoped for a dismissal based upon federal preemption, it is important to note that the Supreme Court made no finding of liability,” said Murray Garnick, Altria Client Services senior vice president and associate general counsel. “We continue to view these cases as manageable, and the company will assert many of the strong defenses used successfully in the past to defend against this very type of case.”