Cook County, Ill., Judge Issues Temporary Injunction in Philip Morris Case
A Cook County, Ill., circuit court judge yesterday issued a 10-day temporary injunction blocking Illinois from collecting $3 billion in punitive damages from $10.1 billion in damages that tobacco firm Philip Morris USA was ordered to pay in a recent court decision, the New York Times reports (Meier, New York Times, 4/9). Last month, Madison County, Ill., Judge Nicholas Byron ruled in a class-action case that Philip Morris misled consumers about the health risks of "light" cigarettes and ordered the company to pay $10.1 billion in damages. Philip Morris officials plan to appeal the case, but state law requires the company to post a $12 billion bond before it can file an appeal. Last week, Philip Morris asked Byron to lower the bond; continued to press the Illinois legislature to enact a law to limit the bond amount required for companies to appeal a court decision; and filed a suit in Cook County to stop collection of the $3 billion in punitive damages from the case (California Healthline, 4/7). Philip Morris had argued that Illinois relinquished claims to punitive damages when the state entered into the 1998 national tobacco settlement (O'Connell et al., Wall Street Journal, 4/9).
Meanwhile, Byron yesterday said he would consider an alternative arrangement that would not require Philip Morris to post the $12 billion bond, the AP/Nando Times reports (Cook, AP/Nando Times, 4/8). Byron said he wanted to see Philip Morris appeal the decision and does not want to bankrupt the company (New York Times, 4/9). According to Stephen Tillery, an attorney for the plaintiffs, Byron did not issue a ruling, but both Philip Morris and the plaintiffs are scheduled to return to court tomorrow (AP/Nando Times, 4/8). The statement from Byron comes after attorneys general from 37 states on Monday filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging that the $12 billion bond be reduced because the bond could threaten Philip Morris' $2.6 billion tobacco settlement payment due to the states on April 15. The state attorneys general also said they would sue Philip Morris if the company missed the payment. Officials for Philip Morris said that unless the $12 billion bond was lowered to no more than $1.5 billion, it would force the company into bankruptcy (California Healthline, 4/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.