The U.S. Supreme Court turned away the tobacco industry’s effort to derail lawsuits by thousands of Florida smokers, leaving cigarette makers exposed to potentially billions of dollars in liability.
The justices on Monday rejected appeals by units of Altria Group Inc. and British American Tobacco Plc in eight cases that totaled more than $120 million in awards to smokers and their family members.
The appeals, which argued that the companies weren’t being given a fair chance to mount a defense, were similar to previous industry bids turned away by the high court in recent years.
The tobacco companies said in court papers that they face another 2,300 pending suits. The cases that have gone to trial have produced more than $800 million in judgments, they said.
The companies say the smokers shouldn’t be able to rely on a jury’s factual findings in a class-action case against the industry 20 years ago. Lower courts have said many of those findings, including the conclusion that the companies conspired to conceal the dangers of smoking, can serve as the starting point for individual suits.
Lawyers for the smokers and their families urged the Supreme Court to turn away the latest appeals. They said each smoker still must make an individual case that damages are warranted.
The cases are Philip Morris v. Jordan, 18-551; Philip Morris v. Brown, 18-552; R.J. Reynolds Tobacco v. Pardue, 18-621; R.J. Reynolds Tobacco v. Searcy, 18-649; Philip Morris v. McKeever, 18-653; Philip Morris v. Boatright, 18-654; R.J. Reynolds Tobacco v. Nally, 18-897; R.J. Reynolds Tobacco v. Johnston, 18-898.
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