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Scharf Banks Marmor

Will the Largest Class Action Judgment in Illinois See New Life?

Written by Stephanie A. Scharf and George D. Sax

A new decision by the Illinois Supreme Court, Price et al. v. Philip Morris, Inc., 2015 IL 117687, decided November 4, 2015, shows there is not yet an end to the largest class action lawsuit in Illinois history.  Price is a consumer fraud class action over purportedly false advertising of “light” cigarettes.  The original Price judgment of $10.1 billion in plaintiffs’ favor was reversed in December 2005 by the Supreme Court, which mandated dismissal on the ground that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had authorized defendant’s use of the descriptor “light” cigarettes and the other descriptors at issue – in essence, a preemption defense.  Several years later, in 2008, the Price plaintiffs persuaded an Illinois appellate court to reinstate the original judgment because of statements made in 2008 by the FTC to the effect that the FTC had not authorized such descriptors as “light” cigarettes.   

In its 4-to-2 opinion of November 4, the Supreme Court dismissed the reinstatement of the $10.1 billion judgment on a procedural ground, that a lower court did not have the authority to recall the mandate of dismissal which had been issued by the Supreme Court.  However, the Supreme Court issued its ruling without prejudice to plaintiffs to recall the mandate in a motion filed in the Supreme Court, without of course commenting on what the result would be.   

No doubt any observers interested in class action law and procedure are eagerly awaiting what will happen next.

This article’s authors co-wrote, along with partner Sarah R. Marmor, and filed a Supreme Court amicus curiae brief in the Price case, on behalf of the Product Liability Advisory Council, Inc. 

Stephanie A. Scharf concentrates her practice on a wide array of complex litigation and life sciences. She has represented clients in federal and state courts in Illinois, New Jersey, California, Washington, Iowa, Michigan, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Oregon and New York.

George D. Sax concentrates his practice in commercial and complex litigation.