Altria to appeal revival of $10.1 billion verdict that it misled smokers

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 30, 2014 8:43 AM

(Reuters) - An Illinois state court has reinstated a $10.1 billion verdict against Philip Morris USA in a lawsuit accusing the Altria Group Inc unit of misleading consumers about the risks of smoking "light" cigarettes. Philip Morris USA said it will appeal immediately.

Tuesday's decision by the Fifth District Court of Appeals revives a judgment handed down in 2003 by a state trial judge, and which was overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2005. The U.S. Supreme Court let that ruling stand the following year.

In a statement on Tuesday night, Murray Garnick, an associate general counsel at Altria, said the Fifth District decision "essentially overrules" the ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court, a higher court.

Altria said its latest appeal puts Tuesday's decision on hold automatically.

The lawsuit had accused Philip Morris USA of defrauding consumers into believing that "light" or "low tar" cigarettes were safer than regular cigarettes. Altria is based in Richmond, Virginia.

Shares of Altria fell 87 cents to $39.25 in premarket trading on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)