U.S. Supreme Court Won't Question West Virginia Tobacco Suits..

February 29, 2008 - U.S. Supreme Court Won't Question West Virginia Tobacco Suits.. The tobacco industry lost a U.S. Supreme Court bid aimed at limiting damage awards in more than 700 West Virginia lawsuits filed by smokers who say cigarettes gave them cancer and other diseases. The justices, without comment, today left intact a trial plan that Altria Group Inc.'s Philip Morris USA unit and other cigarette makers said will lead to unconstitutional awards of punitive damages. The approach calls for a jury to consider common issues, including the availability of punitive damages, before separate trials are held on individual cases. In addition to Philip Morris, Reynolds America Inc.'s R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Loews Corp.'s Lorillard Tobacco Co. urged the Supreme Court to intervene. The rejection clears the way for sick smokers to seek millions, if not billions, of dollars in damages. Supreme Court Justice Bader Ginsburg on behalf of the entire court noted that the there is an urgent need for federal legislation. "Tobacco use by children and adolescents, may be the single most significant threat to public health in the United States," she writes. "But no comprehensive federal law currently exists to prevent tobacco sellers from exploiting the underage market.