Philip Morris opposes tobacco class action
NEW YORK, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Philip Morris Cos. Inc. said on Sunday it will continue to vigorously oppose all efforts to certify a national class action smoking and health lawsuit, regardless of other tobacco companies' positions.
The global conglomerate's statement follows a weekend report in the New York Times that two major tobacco companies, Loews Corp.'s Lorillard Tobacco Co. Inc. and the Liggett Group Inc. unit of Vector Group, are close to a settlement valued at $8 billion.
That settlement would cover all individual smokers' claims against the tobacco industry, the New York Times reported on Saturday. The two companies have been negotiating with plaintiffs' lawyers for about a month, the newspaper quoted people close to the talks as saying.
There was no immediate confirmation of the report from the companies.
``Recent reports that Lorillard Tobacco Company may seek certification of such a class in a novel attempt to resolve punitive damage issues in a nationwide settlement will have no effect on Philip Morris' staunch opposition to the use of class actions in smoking and health cases,'' Philip Morris said.
More than two dozen state and federal courts have concluded U.S. law prohibits tobacco cases from being litigated as class actions, Philip Morris added in a statement. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that lawsuits that cannot be tried as class actions cannot be settled as class actions, it added.
``Philip Morris remains interested in exploring ways to resolve the smoking and health litigation facing the company, but it is clear that any broad resolution of this type of litigation likely will require congressional consideration and action,'' the company said.
William Ohlemeyer, Philip Morris vice president and associate general counsel, said unless and until this matter is addressed and resolved, his company will continue to vigorously defend itself in tobacco litigation.
``However, we are equally committed to working with regulators and legislators to create a framework which will allow the company to responsibly market its products to adults who choose to smoke,'' he added.
Philip Morris shares closed at $35 on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday, versus 52-week highs and lows of $38-5/8 and $18-11/16, respectively.