Md. tobacco case ordered to lose class action status
ANNAPOLIS, Md, May 16 (Reuters) - Philip Morris Cos. said Tuesday that the Maryland Court of Appeals has ordered a lower court judge to decertify a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of smokers against Philip Morris and other major tobacco companies.
The appeals court, by a vote of 4-3, concluded that the Circuit Court for Baltimore City ``abused its discretion in certifying for class action prosecution a mass tort tobacco lawsuit,'' the company said, citing the opinion.
The case, Richardson vs. Philip Morris Inc. et. al., was filed in 1996 on behalf of all smokers in the state who allegedly are addicted to nicotine or who suffer from a smoking-related injury and sought actual and punitive damages. The plaintiffs also were seeking money for future medical monitoring of smokers.
Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Edward J. Angeletti certified the case as a class action early in 1998 and adopted a three-phased trial plan very similar to the one being used in a class-action case in Florida.
According to Philip Morris, the order directs the lower court to decertify the class action status because of the ``immense amount of time and expense'' that both parties and the Maryland judicial system would incur.
The Baltimore court was not immediately available for comment.