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BRIEFLY / TOBACCO

Maryland Class-Action Tobacco Suit Rejected

May 17, 2000|Myron Levin

The tobacco industry won a legal victory in Maryland as the state's highest court tossed out a class action against cigarette makers. Ruling in a case known as Richardson vs. Philip Morris, et al., the Maryland Court of Appeals said a lower court had erred in allowing a single trial for all Maryland smokers suffering tobacco-related illnesses or addiction to nicotine. According to the ruling, individual differences between the claimants predominate over common issues, thus requiring smokers to bring their claims individually. The Maryland ruling is the latest in a string of decisions by federal and state courts rejecting class-action status for anti-tobacco suits. A major exception is the Engle case in Florida, the only class-action case on behalf of smokers to go to trial. Next week, a jury in Miami that has already found the industry guilty of fraud and of causing the illnesses of three class representatives begins considering punitive damages for as many as several hundred thousand Florida smokers.

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