Federal Judge Refuses to Dismiss Light Cigarette Lawsuit Against Philip Morris USA, Altria Group

A federal judge has refused to dismiss a New York class action lawsuit alleging Philip Morris USA and Altria Group, Inc. deceptively marketed Marlboro Lights cigarettes as a less dangerous alternative to regular cigarettes. John A. Woodcock, Jr., Chief District Judge for the U.S. District Court, District of Maine, also granted the plaintiff’s motion to suggest that the light cigarette lawsuit be remanded back to U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, where it was originally filed.

The lawsuit,Bryant Tang vs. Philip Morris, USA, was filed in the Eastern District of New York in September 2008. It alleges that the named plaintiff and other purchasers of Marlboro Lights suffered economic damages as a result of misrepresentations made by Philip Morris USA and Altria Group about the cigarettes. According to the complaint, as early as 1971, Philip Morris USA deceptively marketed Marlboro Lights cigarettes as a less dangerous alternative to regular cigarettes. It further alleges that Philip Morris USA falsely claimed that Marlboro Lights had “Lowered Tar and Nicotine,” even though the company knew those cigarettes would not deliver less tar or nicotine to the consumer.

The plaintiff is represented by the national law firm of Parker Waichman LLP.

The Tang Marlboro Lights lawsuit was one of several consolidated in a multidistrict litigation before Judge Woodcock. On November 24, 2010, Judge Woodcock denied class certification to four test cases submitted in the multidistrict litigation, finding non-commonality. Defendants then sought to apply Judge Woodcock’s ruling to dismiss the remaining four complaints, including the Tang lawsuit.

Parker Waichman LLP opposed the Motion to Dismiss, and moved to have the Tang lawsuit remanded back to the Eastern District of New York, asserting that Section 349 of New York State’s General Business Law provides a common element of damages applicable to all New York class members. In an order issued yesterday, Judge Woodcock refused to dismiss the lawsuits remaining in the MDL, including the Tang complaint. He also granted the plaintiff’s Motion to Suggest Remand to the Eastern District of New York.

The case will now be referred back to the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, which will make the final decision on whether or not to remand the lawsuit to New York.

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