'Deceived' Smokers Ask for Class Status
ALBANY--Cigarette smokers past and present are asking the State Court of Appeals to reinstate their consumer fraud claims against five major tobacco companies, a step that would create the largest class action in New York history.
The Appellate Division, First Department, ruled most of their claims, including fraudulent concealment of the effects of nicotine and other chemical components of cigarettes, were preempted by the federal law that has required warning labels on cigarette packs since 1969. It also found class actions would be unmanageable because the need for all class members to prove they were addicted to nicotine would require "millions of individual trials."
But the plaintiffs contend they are suing as "deceived consumers" rather than "addicted smokers." And since they are seeking recovery only of money spent to buy cigarettes, not damages for personal injury or emotional distress caused by smoking or addiction, they say class actions offer the only realistic avenue for them to pursue redress against the tobacco industry.