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Class-Action Status Denied in 4 Suits Against Big Tobacco

July 06, 2001|From Reuters

NEW YORK — A federal judge has denied class-action certification in four lawsuits filed against tobacco companies, saying the claims had individual issues, paving the way for a long legal road ahead if the individuals bring their own cases, industry watchers said Thursday.

The four cases, brought in Nevada, were consolidated for purposes of the class-certification proceedings.

One case, Selcer vs. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., involved smokers, and the other three were filed on behalf of nonsmoking casino workers exposed to secondhand smoke.

The opinion was entered and served Monday with the clerk of U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada. The top two U.S. tobacco companies, Philip Morris Cos. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc., issued statements on the opinion Thursday. Other cigarette makers also are named in the lawsuits.

Of the more than 100 tobacco cases filed since 1994 seeking class-action status, only seven classes are now certified, Philip Morris said.

The industry is challenging all of those classes except one, the Broin flight attendant case in Miami.

Shares of tobacco-related companies skidded Thursday, with the Standard & Poor's tobacco index down 51.46 points, or 2.11%, to 2388.31.

The slips came a day after Italy's competition regulator said it had opened a price-fixing investigation into cigarette companies.

Philip Morris fell $1.02 to $46.78, RJR fell $1.55 to $54.80 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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