ST. LOUIS, Mo.  (AP) — The Illinois Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the way for plaintiffs’ attorneys to push that a $10.1 billion verdict against cigarette-maker Philip Morris be revived, sending the matter back to the trial court for more hearings.

The court upheld a state appellate court’s February ruling that sends the case back to southwestern Illinois’ Madison County. A judge there had sided with plaintiffs after a two-month 2003 trial in a class-action lawsuit over Philip Morris’ marketing of “light” cigarettes. The state’s high court later threw out that verdict.

With the latest ruling, the plaintiffs expect to argue that a favorable 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision may be applied to reinstate the Madison County case.

“The Supreme Court had an opportunity to review the appellate decision but found no basis to do so,” Stephen Tillery, the attorney behind the lawsuit, said. “After a long journey through the courts, we believe this decision moves the judgment a step closer toward a final confirmation for the 1.1 million Illinois consumers who were represented in the lawsuit.”

An attorney for Philip Morris’ corporate parent downplayed Wednesday’s development as the court merely deciding a procedural question about whether the plaintiffs met a statute of limitations and not the merits of the plaintiffs’ bid to reopen the case.

“Mr. Tillery argues that there are newly discovered facts that warrant reopening the judgment. We do not believe there are,” Murray Garnick, senior vice president and associate general couself for Altria Client Services, which represents Altria Group Inc. subsidiary Philip Morris USA. “All of the historical facts today were known at the time of the trial.

Copyright The Associated Press


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