Tobacco Class Action Denied


A federal judge in Iowa denied class-action status in a lawsuit filed against Winston-Salem, N.C.-based R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and other cigarette-makers, RJR said yesterday.

"With this decision, 15 federal courts now have unanimously rejected these types of tobacco class actions," said Thomas F. McKim, assistant general counsel for Reynolds Tobacco.

"This decision continues the trend of courts determining that class actions are not an appropriate way to deal with smoking-and-health lawsuits."

The lawsuit had asked for class certification for Iowa residents who smoked and who have lung cancer or have died from the disease, the company said. In addition to RJR, other defendants include Philip Morris Inc. and Lorillard Tobacco Co. Federal courts have unanimously rejected class actions in tobacco cases, RJR said. The company said that only a handful of cases in state courts have achieved class status.

"The court's decision to deny class certification in this case is very sensible, and consistent with the facts of the case and the law," said McKim. ?With very limited exceptions, courts have rejected smoker class-action lawsuits. As Judge Ronald Longstaff recognized in this case, every smoker's circumstances are unique. Class actions are not appropriate for litigating claims by groups of people who each have different personal smoking and medical histories. This decision and many other similar rulings show that most courts recognize that a class action by smokers claiming damages for alleged injuries should not be certified."

To date, federal courts have unanimously rejected tobacco class actions, and, with the exception of just a handful of cases, including Engle (Florida); Scott (Louisiana) and Blankenship (West Virginia), state courts have done the same.
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