California Supreme Court rules consumers can file lawsuits against tobacco industry..

May 19, 2009 - Altria Group Inc., the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, and other tobacco companies lost a bid to block a group lawsuit claiming that they misled thousands of Californians about the dangers of smoking.

The California Supreme Court decided 4-3 today that consumers can file class-action lawsuits against the tobacco industry and other businesses under a law voters limited in 2004, reversing a trend in the lower courts. The decision, written by Justice Carlos R. Moreno, revived a class-action lawsuit against the tobacco industry that lower courts dismissed. The lawsuit charges that the industry lured people into buying cigarettes with deceptive advertising that suggested some brands were safer than others.

The ruling was the state high court’s most significant interpretation of Proposition 64, the 2004 initiative that limited suits under a major consumer law to people who claimed they had lost money or property as a result of a company’s wrongdoing. By interpreting this so-called “standing” requirement flexibly, the court cleared the way for consumer class actions that many lower courts have been throwing out.

The case against the tobacco industry, which lower courts had dismissed, charges the industry with luring people to smoke with deceptive ads about cigarette safety. Brought on behalf of every Californian who saw the ads and purchased cigarettes from 1993 to 2001, the suit could produce a jury award in the billions of dollars, lawyers said.

Reference: Altria Fails to Block California Smokers’ Lawsuit (Update3) by Karen Gullo,, 5/18/2009; California top court revives class action against tobacco industry State Supreme Court's 4-3 decision involving a deceptive advertising case surprises those who thought Prop. 64 had essentially ended consumer lawsuits by Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times, 5/19/2009.