Cigarette Makers Continue Win Streak

The top two U.S. cigarette makers were awarded another victory by the courts yesterday as a federal judge denied class-action certification in four lawsuits filed against them and others in the tobacco industry, saying the claims had ``individual issues.''

The four cases, brought in Nevada, were consolidated for purposes of the class-certification proceedings, according to separate statements from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the cigarette making unit of R.J. Reynolds Holdings Inc., and Philip Morris Cos. Inc., the world's largest tobacco company, Reuters reported.

The ruling comes one week after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law that regulated tobacco advertisements both in the store and out.

"Courts continue to recognize that class actions are inappropriate in tobacco litigation because of the overwhelming number of individual issues," said William Ohlemeyer, vice president and associate general counsel for Philip Morris. ''Medical monitoring class actions are simply no different."

The other defendants in the cases included Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., a unit of British American Tobacco Plc; Lorillard Tobacco Co., a unit of Loews Corp.; American Tobacco Co.; and Liggett Group Inc., a unit of Vector Group Ltd., the report said.

"This decision and many other similar rulings in both state and federal courts reflect the consensus that these kinds of class actions should not be certified," said Daniel Donahue, senior vice president and deputy general counsel for Reynolds Tobacco.

Of the more than 100 tobacco cases filed since 1994 seeking class-action status, only seven classes are now certified, Philip Morris said. The tobacco industry is challenging all of those classes except one.
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