State Court Greenlights Individual Tobacco Suits
The California Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that lawsuits filed against tobacco companies by individual smokers could proceed in the state, four years after a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision "virtually halted all smoker lawsuits in the state," the Los Angeles Times reports.
California in 1998 began to allow individuals smokers to file lawsuits against tobacco companies, but the federal appeals court in 2002 ruled that smokers should have filed such lawsuits years earlier, when the health risks and addictiveness of cigarettes became widely known. The federal appeals court decision allowed tobacco companies to move lawsuits filed against them by individual smokers in California to federal court, where each subsequent case was dismissed.
In the decision on Thursday, state Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno wrote, "Although knowledge of smoking addiction has been widespread, ... tobacco companies' misrepresentation of the danger and addictiveness of smoking were also widespread." According to the Times, although "smoking cases may still be heard in federal court, judges there will have to base their decisions on the California court's interpretation of state law."
Richard Daynard, a law professor at Northeastern University, said that the decision "reopens tobacco litigation in California" (Dolan, Los Angeles Times, 2/16).