Nine jurors must be replaced before a trial can begin in a class-action lawsuit that seeks to require tobacco companies to pay for medical tests for Louisiana smokers, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled.
The trial had been scheduled to begin Sept. 5 but was delayed by defense appeals challenging the impartiality of the jury. No date had been set for new jury selection.
The court refused the companies' petition to throw out the entire jury impaneled during the summer. But it ruled that replacements were needed for four jurors and five alternate jurors whose deliberations might be swayed by their desire for close relatives to get free medical tests.
"On balance, we think that the revised jury is an improvement for the tobacco defendants," said Martin Feldman, a tobacco industry analyst at Salomon Smith Barney.
The suit calls for the tobacco companies to underwrite 25-year medical testing and smoking cessation programs for an estimated 500,000 current and former smokers in Louisiana.
Defendants in the case include Philip Morris Cos., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc. and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., a unit of British American Tobacco.