U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear Price v. Philip Morris

WASHINGTON-The United States Supreme Court refused to hear arguments that a lower court erred when tossing Madison County Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron's $10.1 billion verdict Marlboro and Cambridge "light" cigarettes.

The decision was released today with hundreds of others. The high court did not comment on its order.

Nearly a year ago the Illinois Supreme Court overturned Byron's $10.1 billion Madison County bench verdict in Price v. Philip Morris.

In a 4-2 decision issued Dec. 15, 2005, the court grounded its decision on a section of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, which exempts conduct allowed by U.S. regulatory bodies.

The court held that the Federal Trade Commission authorized tobacco companies to characterize cigarettes as "light" or "low tar and nicotine."

Byron issued the verdict in 2003, citing the defendant duped smokers into believing light cigarettes were safer than regular ones.

Byron called the conduct "outrageous and evil."

The class action lawsuit was brought by lead plaintiff Sharon Price, an East Alton police dispatcher. She claimed she started smoking in 1966 and switched to Cambridge Lights in 1986.

Plaintiffs presented evidence that "light" or "low tar" cigarettes promoted at that time were no safer than regular cigarettes and, in fact, could be more harmful. They also presented evidence that defendant was aware of this.

The requirement of actual damages means that the plaintiff must have been harmed in a concrete, ascertainable way. That is, the defendant's deception must have affected the plaintiff in way that made him or her tangibly worse off. Theoretical harm is insufficient. Damages may not be predicated on mere speculation, hypothesis, conjecture or whim.”

— Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier