Judge rejects class status for two tobacco cases
SAN DIEGO, Calif., April 17 (Reuters) - A San Diego Superior Court judge has refused to grant class-action status to two tobacco lawsuits, ordering the plaintiffs to proceed on an individual basis, court documents said Monday.
In rulings issued April 3 and April 10 and posted recently on a court Web site, San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager said that the plaintiffs failed to provide legal justification as to why they should be tried as a class.
In the first case, Daniels vs. Philip Morris Companies, Inc., Prager said the plaintiffs did not prove that proceeding as a ``class'' would in be superior to individual cases.
In the second case, Brown vs. Brown & Williamson, a unit of British American Tobacco Plc, Prgaer said state and federal courts nationwide had almost uniformly rejected the idea that tobacco lawsuits should be granted class certification, and the plaintiffs had given him no reason to think otherwise.
``The rationale underlying these decisions is the inherently individual issues that naturally emanate from claims of individual smokers,'' Prager said in his written ruling. ``This court joins in the virtual unanimity of courts nationwide in finding that the instant action as comprised of common law claims ... is not amenable to class certification.''
Philip Morris said in a statement that Prager's decision proved again that tobacco cases should be considered individually.
``Philip Morris has argued vigorously against class certification in smoking cases, which by their very nature revolve around a jury's evaluation of individual issues,'' the statement said. ``Class actions, on the other hand, are designed to resolve cases in which the same factual and legal claims predominate over individual issues.''