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In re NJOY, Inc. Consumer Class Action Litigation [United States] [February 02, 2016]
A court ruled that a lawsuit against e-cigarette maker NJOY could not proceed as a class action. Potential class members had asserted that NJOY: (1) conducted misleading advertising indicating that e-cigarettes are safer than regular cigarettes; and (2) omitted information on its packaging about product ingredients and the risks of such ingredients. The court affirmed an earlier ruling prohibiting the lawsuit from proceeding as a class action, saying that class members failed to demonstrate how damages can be proven for the entire class. Specifically, the court said that the class was not able to show how it could calculate the difference between the price paid by consumers of NJOY and the true market price that reflects the impact of the unfair or fraudulent business practices. Although the ruling means that the case may not proceed as a class action, individuals may sue NJOY independently.
Price v. Philip Morris, Inc. [United States] [November 04, 2015]
A group of smokers filed a class action against Philip Morris alleging that the company’s marketing of “light” and “lowered tar and nicotine” cigarettes violated certain fraud statutes. The trial court denied the company’s attempt to dismiss the case and awarded the smokers $10.1 billion. After numerous appeals, an Illinois court reinstated the case in 2014. In this decision, the Illinois Supreme Court rejected the appeals court’s decision (based on procedural reasons) and dismissed the class action, effectively ending the case.
Quebec Class Action [Canada] [May 27, 2015]
Two class action lawsuits were filed in Canada in 1998 against major tobacco companies; the cases were later combined. One class (Blais) involved Quebec residents with lung cancer, throat cancer, or emphysema. The other class (Letourneau) involved Quebec residents addicted to nicotine. After a lengthy trial, the court found that the tobacco companies caused injury, failed to inform customers of the risks and dangers of its products, and violated Quebec law.
In the Blais case, the court awarded moral damages (e.g., for pain and suffering) of $15.5 billion, to be paid jointly by the three tobacco companies. In the Letourneau case, although the court found that the tobacco companies were at fault, it did not award moral damages because there was not enough evidence to determine the total amount of the class members’ claims. In both cases the court awarded punitive damages, which it calculated based on one year of before-tax profits for each tobacco company. In Blais, the court reduced this award to the symbolic amount of $30,000 for each defendant, representing one dollar for each death the tobacco industry causes in Canada each year. In Letourneau, the court awarded punitive damages of $131 million. The tobacco companies must make an initial deposit on the judgment of $1 billion while the appeal is pending.
Philip Morris USA v. Russo [United States] [April 02, 2015]
This lawsuit was filed by an individual alleging that smoking caused her to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The lawsuit arises from a 1994 class-action lawsuit on behalf of Florida smokers against major tobacco companies (Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc.). In this decision, the court affirmed an earlier ruling allowing the plaintiff’s fraud claims to continue. The court found that the fraud claims were filed within the appropriate amount of time because the earlier class action lawsuit in Engle had proven that the major tobacco companies fraudulently concealed information about the health risks of smoking.
Hess v. Philip Morris USA [United States] [April 02, 2015]
This lawsuit was filed by the family of an individual who died from a smoking-related illness; it arises from a 1994 class-action lawsuit on behalf of Florida smokers against major tobacco companies (Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc.). In this decision, the court allowed the plaintiff’s fraud claim against Philip Morris to continue. The court found that the earlier class action lawsuit in Engle had proven that the major tobacco companies fraudulently concealed information about the health risks of smoking within the time frame necessary for determining the fraud claim. The court found that it was not necessary to also show that the smoker relied on those fraudulent claims during the relevant period for such claims to move forward.
Coppinger v. Gray [United States] [March 02, 2015]
A homeowner sued his neighbor for exposure to secondhand smoke drifting into his house. The court granted a preliminary injunction ordering the neighbor not to smoke any substances, including tobacco and marijuana, on the premises. Additionally, the neighbor must ensure that no guests smoke and must ask anyone who violates the order prohibiting smoking to leave the property. The order was to stay in place until it was revoked or until the court reached a final decision in the case. Ultimately, the case was dismissed after the party who initiated the suit dropped its claim.
Maclean and District Bowling Club Co-operative v. Green [Australia] [August 14, 2014]
The respondent in this appeal, Ms Green, contracted lung cancer as a result of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke in the workplace and her own tobacco use. She was exposed to passive smoking in the workplace for a period of about 26 years until she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2002, and smoked somewhere between 10-50 cigarettes a day for a period of 17 years up to 1992. She was successful in her claim for workers compensation before an Arbtitrator, who found that (among other things) exposure to smoke in the workplace was a substantially contributing factor to the contraction of her disease. This was an appeal from that decision.
The respondent insurer alleged that (1) there was insufficient evidence before the Arbitrator to conclude that exposure to passive smoking in the workplace substantially contributed to Ms Green's disease; and (2) the Arbitrator gave insufficient reasons for his decision.
In this decision, Deputy President Roche found that there was sufficient evidence for the Arbitrator to conclude that Ms Green's employment was a substantial contributing factor to her injury. However, Deputy President Roche agreed with the appellant that the Arbitrator gave insufficient reasons for his decision, and therefore remitted the matter to a different Arbitrator for re-determination.
Elias v. Israel Railways [Israel] [May 13, 2014]
Train Passengers sued the train company for inefficient enforcement of the smoke free law, claiming that they were harmed by other passengers smoking on open platforms. The court certified the lawsuit as class action on behalf of 320,000 non-smoking passengers for 100 Shekel for each second hand smoking incident, total of 32 million Shekel ($9M).
Price v. Philip Morris, Inc. [United States] [April 29, 2014]
An Illinois court revived a class action lawsuit alleging that tobacco company advertising using the terms “light” and “low tar” constituted fraud. A trial court had awarded the class $10.1 billion in damages but an appeals court overturned the verdict, ruling that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had authorized the use of the terms “light” and “low tar” in tobacco advertising, subject to certain limitations. However, in a separate (and later) lawsuit, the FTC filed a “friend of the court” brief stating that it never intended to authorize the use of the terms “light” and “low tar.” In this case, the court found that the appeals court would have ruled differently if the plaintiffs had been able to enter evidence of the FTC’s position, which became available after trial. Additionally, the court ruled that the trial court had exceeded the scope of its review in a ruling barring the case on the question of damages. The court reinstated the case with the original verdict intact, which is likely to be appealed by tobacco companies.
Ronen v. Mano Maritime [Israel] [December 24, 2013]
A passenger on a cruise ship sued the cruise operators for violation of the smoke free law by not enforcing the prohibition of smoking on the ship. By consent, the cruise company agreed to add to all passengers’ contract terms a warning regarding smoking during the cruise and to compensate the plaintiff. The court did not conclude whether the Israeli smoke free law applied to foreign flag ships in international waters.