Korein Tillery Wins Appellate Victory That Reinstates Historic $10.1 Billion Verdict Against Cigarette-Maker Philip Morris

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Earlier today, after eleven-years of appeals, an Illinois Appellate Court reinstated one of the largest judgments in U.S. history.

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We are pleased with the Fifth District’s well-reasoned decision and are happy that Philip Morris will finally be held accountable for deceiving Illinois consumers.

In another dramatic turn in what is now a fourteen-year legal battle between Korein Tillery and tobacco giant Phillip Morris over its deceptive marketing of “Light” cigarettes, an Illinois appellate court today handed Korein Tillery a significant victory by reinstating the historic $10.1 billion verdict originally entered in 2003 and subsequently reversed by the Illinois Supreme Court. With the intervening passage of eleven years as the case advanced through the Illinois judicial system, it is estimated that post-judgment interest will roughly double the size of the original verdict—potentially exposing Philip Morris to the largest civil judgment in United States history.

Today’s decision by Fifth District Court of Appeals marks yet another chapter in the long and tortuous history of Korein Tillery’s fight on behalf of Illinois consumers to recover damages for Philip Morris’s fraudulent marketing of “Lights” as healthier, lower-tar alternatives to traditional, full-flavor cigarettes. Korein Tillery originally won the $10.1 billion verdict in 2003, only to have it overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court’s finding that the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) specifically authorized cigarette manufacturers to use the terms “Light” and “lower tar and nicotine” in their advertising.

In December, 2008, Korein Tillery sought to re-open the case based on a decision by the United States Supreme Court where the FTC submitted, and the Court relied on, evidence showing that the FTC never authorized Philip Morris’s use of the disputed terms. After the trial court rejected Korein Tillery’s initial petition on timeliness grounds, Korein Tillery won an appellate victory that forced the trial court to confront the petition on the merits.

In 2012, the trial court agreed with Korein Tillery that the new evidence from the FTC invalidated the Illinois Supreme Court’s rationale for reversal, but nevertheless declined to reinstate the original verdict. Instead, the trial court ruled that the Supreme Court would have reversed in any event for insufficient proof of damages. In today’s decision, the Fifth District held that while the trial court was correct about the impact of the new FTC evidence on the Supreme Court’s reasoning, it committed error when it found that the new evidence would not have changed the outcome:

“We conclude that the trial court exceeded the scope of section 2-1401 review when it attempted to predict how the supreme court would rule on the question of damages. For these reasons, the order denying the petition for relief from judgment must be reversed.”

Importantly, and despite Philip Morris’s opposition, the Fifth District also held that granting relief from judgment necessarily meant that the original verdict had to be reinstated.

Stephen M. Tillery, senior partner at Korein Tillery and the lead attorney on the case from its inception, commented on the ruling as follows: “We are pleased with the Fifth District’s well-reasoned decision and are happy that Philip Morris will finally be held accountable for deceiving Illinois consumers.”

The name of the case is Price v. Philip Morris, Inc., No. 00-L-112; appellate No. 5-13-0017.

About Korein Tillery
Korein Tillery is a an AV-rated, award-winning law firm with offices in St. Louis and Chicago that has recovered billions of dollars in verdicts and settlements in a variety of cases across the country involving pension funds, insurance, securities, antitrust, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, environmental contamination, tobacco, computer technology, and consumer fraud. The firm has gained a national reputation for aggressively and successfully pursuing a wide variety of complex cases on behalf of its clients. Korein Tillery was named by the National Law Journal to its “Plaintiffs’ Hot List” in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2013 as one of the nation’s top plaintiffs’ law firms in all specialties. More information is available at http://www.koreintillery.com.

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Jerry Brown
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