Philip Morris Sues More Retailers
NEW YORK - Philip Morris USA filed lawsuits Tuesday against an additional 197 retailers who allegedly sold counterfeit versions of the company's cigarettes.
In a press release Tuesday, the Altria Group Inc. unit said 17 suits are being filed in federal courts in eight states.
Since September 2002, the company has filed 48 lawsuits in 17 federal courts against 612 retailers who were found to be selling counterfeit cigarettes.
The alleged counterfeit smokes were found after Philip Morris audits, in which the company bought cigarettes at retail stores and tested them to determine whether they were the real thing or fakes.
Past lawsuits have resulted in 43 consent judgments in which retailers agreed to stop selling counterfeit cigarettes and to provide information about their suppliers.
These judgments include financial penalties for any future violations of the judgment. Many more consent judgments are currently under consideration.
The lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court in Arizona, California, Florida, Louisiana, New York, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington.
Philip Morris is the nation's leading cigarette maker. Its brands, which include Marlboro, Benson & Hedges, Merit, Virginia Slims and Parliament, make up about half of all U.S. cigarette shipments.
Altria's shares closed Tuesday at $32.69, up 32 cents, or 1 percent, on The New York Stock Exchange.