MO » Topics » Overview

These excerpts taken from the MO 10-K filed Feb 24, 2010.

Overview

 

Plaintiffs’ allegations of liability in smoking and health cases are based on various theories of recovery, including negligence, gross negligence, strict liability, fraud, misrepresentation, design defect, failure to warn, nuisance, breach of express and implied warranties, breach of special duty, conspiracy, concert of action, violations of deceptive trade practice laws and consumer protection statutes, and claims under the federal and state anti-racketeering statutes. Plaintiffs in the smoking and health actions seek various forms of relief, including compensatory and punitive damages, treble/multiple damages and other statutory damages and penalties, creation of medical monitoring and smoking cessation funds, disgorgement of profits, and injunctive and equitable relief. Defenses raised in these cases include lack of proximate cause, assumption of the risk, comparative fault and/or contributory negligence, statutes of limitations and preemption by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act.

 

In July 2008, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department in Fabiano, an individual personal injury case, held that plaintiffs’ punitive damages claim was barred by the MSA (as defined below) based on principles of res judicata because the New York Attorney General had already litigated the punitive damages claim on behalf of all New York residents. In August 2008, plaintiffs filed a motion for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeals. The motion was denied in November 2008.

 

Overview

 

In health care cost recovery litigation, governmental entities and non-governmental plaintiffs seek reimbursement of health care cost expenditures allegedly caused by tobacco products and, in some cases, of future expenditures and damages as well. Relief sought by some but not all plaintiffs includes punitive damages, multiple damages and other statutory damages and penalties, injunctions prohibiting alleged marketing and sales to minors, disclosure of research, disgorgement of profits, funding of anti-smoking programs, additional disclosure of nicotine yields, and payment of attorney and expert witness fees.

 

The claims asserted include the claim that cigarette manufacturers were “unjustly enriched” by plaintiffs’ payment of health care costs allegedly attributable to smoking, as well as claims of indemnity, negligence, strict liability, breach of express and implied warranty, violation of a voluntary undertaking or special duty, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, conspiracy, public nuisance, claims under federal and state statutes governing consumer fraud, antitrust, deceptive trade practices and false advertising, and claims under federal and state anti-racketeering statutes.

 

Defenses raised include lack of proximate cause, remoteness of injury, failure to state a valid claim, lack of benefit, adequate remedy at law, “unclean hands” (namely, that plaintiffs cannot obtain equitable relief because they participated in, and benefited from, the sale of cigarettes), lack of antitrust standing and injury, federal preemption, lack of statutory authority to bring suit, and statutes of limitations. In addition, defendants argue that they should be entitled to “set off” any alleged damages to the extent the plaintiffs benefit economically from the sale of cigarettes through the receipt of excise taxes or otherwise. Defendants also argue that these cases are improper because plaintiffs must proceed under principles of subrogation and assignment. Under traditional theories of recovery, a payor of medical costs (such as an insurer) can seek recovery of health care costs from a third party solely by “standing in the shoes” of the injured party. Defendants argue that plaintiffs should be required to bring any actions as subrogees of individual health care recipients and should be subject to all defenses available against the injured party.

 

Although there have been some decisions to the contrary, most judicial decisions have dismissed all or most health care cost recovery claims against cigarette manufacturers. Nine federal circuit courts of appeals and six state appellate courts, relying primarily on grounds that plaintiffs’ claims were too remote, have ordered or affirmed dismissals of health care cost recovery actions. The United States Supreme Court has refused to consider plaintiffs’ appeals from the cases decided by five circuit courts of appeals.

 

In March 1999, in the first health care cost recovery case to go to trial, an Ohio jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants on all counts. In addition, a $17.8 million verdict against defendants (including $6.8 million against PM USA) was reversed in a health care cost recovery case in New York, and all claims were dismissed with prejudice in February 2005 (Blue Cross/Blue Shield). In June 2009, the trial court denied two of defendants’ motions for summary judgment in a health care cost recovery case brought by the City of St. Louis, Missouri and approximately 40 Missouri hospitals, in which PM USA, USSTC and Altria Group, Inc. are defendants. Defendants’ other summary judgment motions, as well as plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment claiming collateral estoppel from the findings in the case brought by the Department of Justice (see Federal Government’s Lawsuit described below), are still pending. Trial is currently scheduled to begin no earlier than January 2011.

 

Individuals and associations have also sued in purported class actions or as private attorneys general under the Medicare as Secondary Payer (“MSP”) provisions of the Social Security Act to

 

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recover from defendants Medicare expenditures allegedly incurred for the treatment of smoking-related diseases. Cases brought in New York (Mason), Florida (Glover) and Massachusetts (United Seniors Association) have been dismissed by federal courts. In April 2008, an action, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, et al. v. Philip Morris USA, et al. (“National Committee I”), was brought under the MSP statute in the Circuit Court of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of and for Miami County, Florida, but was dismissed voluntarily in May 2008. The action purported to be brought on behalf of Medicare to recover an unspecified amount of damages equal to double the amount paid by Medicare for smoking-related health care services provided from April 19, 2002 to the present.

 

In May 2008, an action, National Committee to Preserve Social Security, et al. v. Philip Morris USA, et al., was brought under the MSP statute in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. This action was brought by the same plaintiffs as National Committee I and similarly purports to be brought on behalf of Medicare to recover an unspecified amount of damages equal to double the amount paid by Medicare for smoking-related health care services provided from May 21, 2002 to the present. In July 2008, defendants filed a motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ claims and plaintiffs filed a motion for partial summary judgment. In March 2009, the court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs noticed an appeal in May 2009 after the district court denied their motion for reconsideration.

 

In addition to the cases brought in the United States, health care cost recovery actions have also been brought against tobacco industry participants, including PM USA, in Israel (1), the Marshall Islands (1 dismissed), and Canada (3) and other entities have stated that they are considering filing such actions. In September 2005, in the first of the three health care recovery cases filed in Canada, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that legislation passed in British Columbia permitting the lawsuit is constitutional, and, as a result, the case, which had previously been dismissed by the trial court, was permitted to proceed. PM USA’s and other defendants’ challenge to the British Columbia court’s exercise of jurisdiction was rejected by the Court of Appeals of British Columbia and, in April 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada denied review of that decision. During 2008, the Province of New Brunswick, Canada, proclaimed into law previously adopted legislation allowing reimbursement claims to be brought against cigarette manufacturers, and it filed suit shortly thereafter. In September 2009, the Province of Ontario, Canada, filed suit against a number of cigarette manufacturers based on previously adopted legislation nearly identical in substance to the New Brunswick health care cost recovery legislation. PM USA is named as a defendant in the British Columbia case, while Altria Group, Inc. and PM USA are named as defendants in the New Brunswick and Ontario cases. Several other provinces in Canada have enacted similar legislation or are in the process of enacting similar legislation. See “Guarantees” for a discussion of the Distribution Agreement between Altria Group, Inc. and PMI that provides for indemnities for certain liabilities concerning tobacco products.

 

Overview

 

Plaintiffs in certain pending matters seek certification of their cases as class actions and allege, among other things, that the uses of the terms “Lights” and/or “Ultra Lights” constitute deceptive and unfair trade practices, common law fraud, or RICO violations, and seek injunctive and equitable relief, including restitution and, in certain cases, punitive damages. These class actions have been brought against PM USA and, in certain instances, Altria Group, Inc. or its subsidiaries, on behalf of individuals who purchased and consumed various brands of cigarettes, including Marlboro Lights, Marlboro Ultra Lights, Virginia Slims Lights and Superslims, Merit Lights and Cambridge Lights. Defenses raised in

 

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these cases include lack of misrepresentation, lack of causation, injury, and damages, the statute of limitations, express preemption by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act (“FCLAA”) and implied preemption by the policies and directives of the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), non-liability under state statutory provisions exempting conduct that complies with federal regulatory directives, and the First Amendment. As of February 19, 2010, a total of twenty-eight such cases were pending in the United States. Thirteen of these cases were pending in a multidistrict litigation proceeding in a single U.S. federal court. One of the cases is pending in federal court but is not part of the multidistrict litigation proceedings. The other fourteen cases were pending in various U.S. state courts. In addition, a purported “Lights” class action is pending against PM USA in Israel. Other entities have stated that they are considering filing such actions against Altria Group, Inc. and PM USA.

 

This excerpt taken from the MO 8-K filed Jan 28, 2010.

Overview

Plaintiffs in certain pending matters seek certification of their cases as class actions and allege, among other things, that the uses of the terms “Lights” and/or “Ultra Lights” constitute

 

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ALTRIA GROUP, INC. and SUBSIDIARIES

NOTES to CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

 

 

 

deceptive and unfair trade practices, common law fraud, or RICO violations, and seek injunctive and equitable relief, including restitution and, in certain cases, punitive damages. These class actions have been brought against PM USA and, in certain instances, Altria Group, Inc. or its subsidiaries, on behalf of individuals who purchased and consumed various brands of cigarettes, including Marlboro Lights, Marlboro Ultra Lights, Virginia Slims Lights and Superslims, Merit Lights and Cambridge Lights. Defenses raised in these cases include lack of misrepresentation, lack of causation, injury, and damages, the statute of limitations, express preemption by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act (“FCLAA”) and implied preemption by the policies and directives of the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), non-liability under state statutory provisions exempting conduct that complies with federal regulatory directives, and the First Amendment. As of January 15, 2010, a total of twenty-eight such cases were pending in the United States. Fourteen of these cases were pending in a multidistrict litigation proceeding in a single U.S. federal court. Two of the cases were pending in federal courts but are not part of the multidistrict litigation proceedings. The other twelve cases were pending in various U.S. state courts. In addition, a purported “Lights” class action is pending against PM USA in Israel. Other entities have stated that they are considering filing such actions against Altria Group, Inc. and PM USA.

These excerpts taken from the MO 10-Q filed May 7, 2009.

Overview

Plaintiffs’ allegations of liability in smoking and health cases are based on various theories of recovery, including negligence, gross negligence, strict liability, fraud, misrepresentation, design defect, failure to warn, nuisance, breach of express and implied warranties, breach of special duty, conspiracy, concert of action, violations of deceptive trade practice laws and consumer protection statutes, and claims under the federal and state anti-racketeering statutes. Plaintiffs in the smoking and health actions seek various forms of relief, including compensatory and punitive damages, treble/multiple damages and other statutory damages and penalties, creation of medical monitoring and smoking cessation funds, disgorgement of profits, and injunctive and equitable relief. Defenses raised in these cases include lack of proximate cause, assumption of the risk, comparative fault and/or contributory negligence, statutes of limitations and preemption by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act.

In July 2008, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department in Fabiano, an individual personal injury case, held that plaintiffs’ punitive damages claim was barred by the MSA (as defined below) based on principles of res judicata because the New York Attorney General had already litigated the punitive damages claim on behalf of all New York residents. In August 2008, plaintiffs filed a motion for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeals. The motion was denied in November 2008.

Overview

In health care cost recovery litigation, governmental entities and non-governmental plaintiffs seek reimbursement of health care cost expenditures allegedly caused by tobacco products and, in some cases, of future expenditures and damages as well. Relief sought by some but not all plaintiffs includes punitive damages, multiple damages and other statutory damages and penalties, injunctions prohibiting alleged marketing and sales to minors, disclosure of research, disgorgement of profits, funding of anti-smoking programs, additional disclosure of nicotine yields, and payment of attorney and expert witness fees.

The claims asserted include the claim that cigarette manufacturers were “unjustly enriched” by plaintiffs’ payment of health care costs allegedly attributable to smoking, as well as claims of indemnity, negligence, strict liability, breach of express and implied warranty, violation of a voluntary undertaking or special duty, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, conspiracy, public nuisance, claims under federal and state statutes governing consumer fraud, antitrust, deceptive trade practices and false advertising, and claims under federal and state anti-racketeering statutes.

 

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Altria Group, Inc. and Subsidiaries

Notes to Condensed Consolidated Financial Statements

(Unaudited)

 

Defenses raised include lack of proximate cause, remoteness of injury, failure to state a valid claim, lack of benefit, adequate remedy at law, “unclean hands” (namely, that plaintiffs cannot obtain equitable relief because they participated in, and benefited from, the sale of cigarettes), lack of antitrust standing and injury, federal preemption, lack of statutory authority to bring suit, and statutes of limitations. In addition, defendants argue that they should be entitled to “set off” any alleged damages to the extent the plaintiffs benefit economically from the sale of cigarettes through the receipt of excise taxes or otherwise. Defendants also argue that these cases are improper because plaintiffs must proceed under principles of subrogation and assignment. Under traditional theories of recovery, a payor of medical costs (such as an insurer) can seek recovery of health care costs from a third party solely by “standing in the shoes” of the injured party. Defendants argue that plaintiffs should be required to bring any actions as subrogees of individual health care recipients and should be subject to all defenses available against the injured party.

Although there have been some decisions to the contrary, most judicial decisions have dismissed all or most health care cost recovery claims against cigarette manufacturers. Nine federal circuit courts of appeals and six state appellate courts, relying primarily on grounds that plaintiffs’ claims were too remote, have ordered or affirmed dismissals of health care cost recovery actions. The United States Supreme Court has refused to consider plaintiffs’ appeals from the cases decided by five circuit courts of appeals.

In March 1999, in the first health care cost recovery case to go to trial, an Ohio jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants on all counts. In addition, a $17.8 million verdict against defendants (including $6.8 million against PM USA) was reversed in a health care cost recovery case in New York, and all claims were dismissed with prejudice in February 2005 (Blue Cross/Blue Shield). The trial in the health care cost recovery case brought by the City of St. Louis, Missouri and approximately 40 Missouri hospitals, in which PM USA, USSTC and Altria Group, Inc. are defendants, is scheduled to begin on June 7, 2010.

Individuals and associations have also sued in purported class actions or as private attorneys general under the Medicare as Secondary Payer (“MSP”) provisions of the Social Security Act to recover from defendants Medicare expenditures allegedly incurred for the treatment of smoking-related diseases. Cases brought in New York (Mason), Florida (Glover) and Massachusetts (United Seniors Association) have been dismissed by federal courts. In April 2008, an action, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, et al. v. Philip Morris USA, et al. (“National Committee I”), was brought under the Medicare as Secondary Payer statute in the Circuit Court of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of and for Miami County, Florida, but was dismissed voluntarily in May 2008. The action purported to be brought on behalf of Medicare to recover an unspecified amount of damages equal to double the amount paid by Medicare for smoking-related health care services provided from April 19, 2002 to the present.

In May 2008, an action, National Committee to Preserve Social Security, et al. v. Philip Morris USA, et al., was brought under the Medicare as Secondary Payer statute in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. This action was brought by the same plaintiffs as National Committee I and similarly purports to be brought on behalf of Medicare to recover an unspecified amount of damages equal to double the amount paid by Medicare for smoking-related health care services provided from May 21, 2002 to the present. In July 2008, defendants filed a motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ claims and plaintiffs filed a motion for partial summary judgment. On March 5, 2009, the court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs filed a motion seeking reconsideration of the March 5 order. On April 24, 2009, the court denied plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration.

In addition to the cases brought in the United States, health care cost recovery actions have also been brought against tobacco industry participants, including PM USA, in Israel (1), the Marshall Islands (1 dismissed), and Canada (2) and other entities have stated that they are considering filing such actions. In September 2005, in the first of the two health care recovery cases filed in Canada, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that legislation passed in British Columbia permitting the lawsuit is constitutional, and, as a result, the case, which

 

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Altria Group, Inc. and Subsidiaries

Notes to Condensed Consolidated Financial Statements

(Unaudited)

 

had previously been dismissed by the trial court, was permitted to proceed. PM USA’s and other defendants’ challenge to the British Columbia court’s exercise of jurisdiction was rejected by the Court of Appeals of British Columbia and, in April 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada denied review of that decision. During 2008, the Province of New Brunswick, Canada, proclaimed into law previously adopted legislation allowing reimbursement claims to be brought against cigarette manufacturers, and it filed suit shortly thereafter. Altria Group, Inc. and PM USA are named as defendants in New Brunswick’s case. Several other provinces in Canada have enacted similar legislation or are in the process of enacting similar legislation. See “Guarantees” for a discussion of the Distribution Agreement between Altria Group, Inc. and PMI that provides for indemnities for certain liabilities concerning tobacco products.

Overview

Plaintiffs in these class actions (some of which have not been certified as such), allege, among other things, that the uses of the terms “Lights” and/or “Ultra Lights” constitute deceptive and unfair trade practices, common law fraud, or RICO violations, and seek injunctive and equitable relief, including restitution and, in certain cases, punitive damages. These class actions have been brought against PM USA and, in certain instances, Altria Group, Inc. or its subsidiaries, on behalf of individuals who purchased and consumed various brands of cigarettes, including Marlboro Lights, Marlboro Ultra Lights, Virginia Slims Lights and Superslims, Merit Lights and Cambridge Lights. Defenses raised in these cases include lack of misrepresentation, lack of causation, injury, and damages, the statute of limitations, express preemption by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act (“FCLAA”) and implied preemption by the policies and directives of the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), non-liability under state statutory provisions exempting conduct that complies with federal regulatory directives, and the First Amendment. As of May 1, 2009, twenty-seven cases are pending as follows: Arkansas (2), California (1), Colorado (1), Delaware (1), Florida (2), Illinois (4), Maine (1), Massachusetts (1), Minnesota (1), Missouri (1), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (1), New York (3), Ohio (2), Oregon (1), Texas (1) and West Virginia (2). In addition, a purported “Lights” class action is pending against PM USA in Israel. Other entities have stated that they are considering filing such actions against Altria Group, Inc. and PM USA.

This excerpt taken from the MO DEF 14A filed Apr 9, 2009.

Overview

 

Pensions for most of our employees are payable from a funded tax-qualified pension plan. To the extent that tax law limitations do not allow paying the full pension under the tax-qualified plan, a circumstance that affects our named executive officers as well as others, the balance is payable under supplemental pension plans. Company contributions to our tax-qualified deferred profit-sharing plan are also limited by tax rules, with any amount above the limits being credited under the supplemental deferred profit-sharing plan.

 

With respect to these supplemental retirement plan benefits earned for service before 2005, since 1996, a number of our employees (including our named executive officers) have been eligible for payments that were made to individual trusts they established or, in some cases, to employees themselves. The accumulated values of these payments offset pre-2005 vested benefits promised under both the pension and deferred profit sharing portions of the supplemental plans that would otherwise be payable at or after the employee’s retirement. The payments were not intended to increase total promised benefits but rather to provide greater parity among employees with respect to the extent of unfunded benefits and neutralize any perceived recruitment and retention disincentives presented by substantial unfunded retirement benefit arrangements.

 

In response to changes in applicable tax laws, accruals and allocations under these supplemental plans ceased in years 2005 to 2007 for a number of employees, including all of our named executive officers. They were replaced by annual Target Payments described under the caption “Target Payments” below. The pre-2005 supplemental plan benefits promised to employees remain in place, and additional payments with respect to these benefits were made for periods through 2007.

 

During 2008, the Compensation Committee of our Board of Directors continued to review Altria’s retirement plans and arrangements. The Committee concluded that, in light of changed circumstances, the complexity and costs involved in continuing to make payments with respect to the pre-2005 supplemental retirement plan benefits and in continuing annual Target Payments appeared to outweigh the benefits. Accordingly, all such payments have been discontinued with respect to periods after

 

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December 31, 2007, except for employees who had previously scheduled dates for termination of employment. Effective January 1, 2008, our continuing named executive officers and other employees affected by this discontinuance again began to receive accruals and allocations under the supplemental plans. It is anticipated that these benefits will remain unfunded and will not be paid until the employee retires or otherwise terminates employment.

 

The new 2008 structure for supplemental retirement plan benefits was implemented by amending the BEP described below. In order to integrate the prior arrangements without creating duplicative benefits, the amended BEP provides a new pension benefit based on all of an employee’s creditable service and compensation, but only to the extent such benefit exceeds the sum of:

 

   

pre-2005 supplemental retirement plan benefits;

 

   

the portion of the accumulated value of prior Target Payments attributed to supplemental pension benefits; and

 

   

our tax-qualified pension plan benefits.

 

Similarly, with respect to supplemental deferred profit-sharing plan (“BEP DPS”) benefits, the amended BEP will provide new benefits based on the accumulated value of BEP DPS allocations that would have been made or are made for years after 2004 to the extent they exceed the accumulated value of prior Target Payments allocated to these benefits. All of the new benefits provided through amendment of the BEP are paid in a lump sum following retirement. Distribution of the pre-2005 supplemental plan benefits remains subject to the terms applicable on December 31, 2004.

 

These excerpts taken from the MO 10-K filed Feb 27, 2009.

Overview

 

Plaintiffs’ allegations of liability in smoking and health cases are based on various theories of recovery, including negligence, gross negligence, strict liability, fraud, misrepresentation, design defect, failure to warn, nuisance, breach of express and implied warranties, breach of special duty, conspiracy, concert of action, violations of deceptive trade practice laws and consumer protection statutes, and claims under the federal and state anti-racketeering statutes. Plaintiffs in the smoking and health actions seek various forms of relief, including compensatory and punitive damages, treble/multiple damages and other statutory damages and penalties, creation of medical monitoring and smoking cessation funds, disgorgement of profits, and injunctive and equitable relief. Defenses raised in these cases include lack of proximate cause, assumption of the risk, comparative fault and/or contributory negligence, statutes of limitations and preemption by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act.

 

In July 2008, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department in Fabiano, an individual personal injury case, held that plaintiffs’ punitive damages claim was barred by the MSA (as defined below) based on principles of res judicata because the New York Attorney General had already litigated the punitive damages claim on behalf of all New York residents. In August 2008, plaintiffs filed a motion for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeals. The motion was denied on November 13, 2008.

 

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Overview

 

In health care cost recovery litigation, governmental entities and non-governmental plaintiffs seek reimbursement of health care cost expenditures allegedly caused by tobacco products and, in some cases, of future expenditures and damages as well. Relief sought by some but not all plaintiffs includes punitive damages, multiple damages and other statutory damages and penalties, injunctions prohibiting alleged marketing and sales to minors, disclosure of research, disgorgement of profits, funding of anti-smoking programs, additional disclosure of nicotine yields, and payment of attorney and expert witness fees.

 

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The claims asserted include the claim that cigarette manufacturers were “unjustly enriched” by plaintiffs’ payment of health care costs allegedly attributable to smoking, as well as claims of indemnity, negligence, strict liability, breach of express and implied warranty, violation of a voluntary undertaking or special duty, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, conspiracy, public nuisance, claims under federal and state statutes governing consumer fraud, antitrust, deceptive trade practices and false advertising, and claims under federal and state anti-racketeering statutes.

 

Defenses raised include lack of proximate cause, remoteness of injury, failure to state a valid claim, lack of benefit, adequate remedy at law, “unclean hands” (namely, that plaintiffs cannot obtain equitable relief because they participated in, and benefited from, the sale of cigarettes), lack of antitrust standing and injury, federal preemption, lack of statutory authority to bring suit, and statutes of limitations. In addition, defendants argue that they should be entitled to “set off” any alleged damages to the extent the plaintiffs benefit economically from the sale of cigarettes through the receipt of excise taxes or otherwise. Defendants also argue that these cases are improper because plaintiffs must proceed under principles of subrogation and assignment. Under traditional theories of recovery, a payor of medical costs (such as an insurer) can seek recovery of health care costs from a third party solely by “standing in the shoes” of the injured party. Defendants argue that plaintiffs should be required to bring any actions as subrogees of individual health care recipients and should be subject to all defenses available against the injured party.

 

Although there have been some decisions to the contrary, most judicial decisions have dismissed all or most health care cost recovery claims against cigarette manufacturers. Nine federal circuit courts of appeals and six state appellate courts, relying primarily on grounds that plaintiffs’ claims were too remote, have ordered or affirmed dismissals of health care cost recovery actions. The United States Supreme Court has refused to consider plaintiffs’ appeals from the cases decided by five circuit courts of appeals.

 

In March 1999, in the first health care cost recovery case to go to trial, an Ohio jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants on all counts. In addition, a $17.8 million verdict against defendants (including $6.8 million against PM USA) was reversed in a health care cost recovery case in New York, and all claims were dismissed with prejudice in February 2005 (Blue Cross/Blue Shield). The trial in the health care cost recovery case brought by the City of St. Louis, Missouri and approximately 40 Missouri hospitals, in which PM USA and Altria Group, Inc. are defendants, is scheduled to begin on June 7, 2010.

 

Individuals and associations have also sued in purported class actions or as private attorneys general under the Medicare as Secondary Payer (“MSP”) provisions of the Social Security Act to recover from defendants Medicare expenditures allegedly incurred for the treatment of smoking-related diseases. Cases brought in New York (Mason), Florida (Glover) and Massachusetts (United Seniors Association) have been dismissed by federal courts. In April 2008, an action, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, et al. v. Philip Morris USA, et al. (“National Committee I”), was brought under the Medicare as Secondary Payer statute in the Circuit Court of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of and for Miami County, Florida, but was dismissed voluntarily in May 2008. The action purported to be brought on behalf of Medicare to recover an unspecified amount of damages equal to double the amount paid by Medicare for smoking-related health care services provided from April 19, 2002 to the present.

 

In May 2008, an action, National Committee to Preserve Social Security, et al. v. Philip Morris USA, et al., was brought under the Medicare as Secondary Payer statute in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. This action was brought by the same plaintiffs as National Committee I and similarly purports to be brought on behalf of Medicare to recover an unspecified amount of damages equal to double the amount paid by Medicare for smoking-related health care

 

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services provided from May 21, 2002 to the present. In July 2008, defendants filed a motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ claims and plaintiffs filed a motion for partial summary judgment. The court heard argument on both motions on November 20, 2008.

 

In addition to the cases brought in the United States, health care cost recovery actions have also been brought against tobacco industry participants, including PM USA, in Israel (1), the Marshall Islands (1 dismissed), and Canada (2) and other entities have stated that they are considering filing such actions. In September 2005, in the first of the two health care recovery cases filed in Canada, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that legislation passed in British Columbia permitting the lawsuit is constitutional, and, as a result, the case, which had previously been dismissed by the trial court, was permitted to proceed. PM USA’s and other defendants’ challenge to the British Columbia court’s exercise of jurisdiction was rejected by the Court of Appeals of British Columbia and, in April 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada denied review of that decision. During 2008, the Province of New Brunswick, Canada, proclaimed into law previously adopted legislation allowing reimbursement claims to be brought against cigarette manufacturers, and it filed suit shortly thereafter. Altria Group, Inc. and PM USA are named as defendants in New Brunswick’s case. Several other provinces in Canada have enacted similar legislation or are in the process of enacting similar legislation. See “Third-Party Guarantees” for a discussion of the Distribution Agreement between Altria Group, Inc. and PMI that provides for indemnities for certain liabilities concerning tobacco products.

 

Overview


 

Plaintiffs’ allegations of liability in smoking and health cases are based on
various theories of recovery, including negligence, gross negligence, strict liability, fraud, misrepresentation, design defect, failure to warn, nuisance, breach of express and implied warranties, breach of special duty, conspiracy, concert of
action, violations of deceptive trade practice laws and consumer protection statutes, and claims under the federal and state anti-racketeering statutes. Plaintiffs in the smoking and health actions seek various forms of relief, including
compensatory and punitive damages, treble/multiple damages and other statutory damages and penalties, creation of medical monitoring and smoking cessation funds, disgorgement of profits, and injunctive and equitable relief. Defenses raised in these
cases include lack of proximate cause, assumption of the risk, comparative fault and/or contributory negligence, statutes of limitations and preemption by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act.

STYLE="margin-top:0px;margin-bottom:0px"> 

In July 2008, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department in
Fabiano, an individual personal injury case, held that plaintiffs’ punitive damages claim was barred by the MSA (as defined below) based on principles of res judicata because the New York Attorney General had already
litigated the punitive damages claim on behalf of all New York residents. In August 2008, plaintiffs filed a motion for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeals. The motion was denied on November 13, 2008.

STYLE="margin-top:0px;margin-bottom:0px"> 


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Overview

 

Plaintiffs in these class actions (some of which have not been certified as such), allege, among other things, that the uses of the terms “Lights” and/or “Ultra Lights” constitute deceptive and unfair trade practices, common law fraud, or RICO violations, and seek injunctive and equitable relief, including restitution and, in certain cases, punitive damages. These class actions have been brought against PM USA and, in certain instances, Altria Group, Inc. or its subsidiaries, on behalf of individuals who purchased and consumed various brands of cigarettes, including Marlboro Lights, Marlboro Ultra Lights, Virginia Slims Lights and Superslims, Merit Lights and Cambridge Lights. Defenses raised in these cases include lack of misrepresentation, lack of causation, injury, and damages, the statute of limitations, express preemption by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act (“FCLAA”) and implied preemption by the policies and directives of the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), non-liability under state statutory provisions exempting conduct that complies with federal regulatory directives, and the First Amendment. As of February 24, 2009, twenty-one cases are pending as follows: Arkansas (2), Colorado (1), Delaware (1), Florida (2), Illinois (2), Maine (1), Massachusetts (1), Minnesota (1), Missouri (1), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (1), New York (1), Oregon (1), Tennessee (1), Texas (1) and West Virginia (2). In addition, a purported “Lights” class action is pending against PM USA in Israel. Other entities have stated that they are considering filing such actions against Altria Group, Inc. and PM USA.

 

Overview

STYLE="margin-top:0px;margin-bottom:-6px"> 

Plaintiffs in these class actions (some of which have not been certified as such),
allege, among other things, that the uses of the terms “Lights” and/or “Ultra Lights” constitute deceptive and unfair trade practices, common law fraud, or RICO violations, and seek injunctive and equitable relief, including
restitution and, in certain cases, punitive damages. These class actions have been brought against PM USA and, in certain instances, Altria Group, Inc. or its subsidiaries, on behalf of individuals who purchased and consumed various brands of
cigarettes, including Marlboro Lights, Marlboro Ultra Lights, Virginia Slims Lights and Superslims, Merit Lights and Cambridge Lights. Defenses raised in these cases include lack of misrepresentation, lack of causation, injury,
and damages, the statute of limitations, express preemption by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act (“FCLAA”) and implied preemption by the policies and directives of the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”),
non-liability under state statutory provisions exempting conduct that complies with federal regulatory directives, and the First Amendment. As of February 24, 2009, twenty-one cases are pending as follows: Arkansas (2), Colorado (1), Delaware
(1), Florida (2), Illinois (2), Maine (1), Massachusetts (1), Minnesota (1), Missouri (1), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (1), New York (1), Oregon (1), Tennessee (1), Texas (1) and West Virginia (2). In addition, a purported
“Lights” class action is pending against PM USA in Israel. Other entities have stated that they are considering filing such actions against Altria Group, Inc. and PM USA.

SIZE="1"> 

This excerpt taken from the MO 8-K filed Jan 29, 2009.

Overview

Plaintiffs in these class actions (some of which have not been certified as such), allege, among other things, that the uses of the terms “Lights” and/or “Ultra Lights” constitute deceptive and unfair trade practices, common law fraud, or RICO violations, and seek injunctive and equitable relief, including restitution and, in certain cases, punitive damages. These class actions have been brought against PM USA and, in certain instances, Altria Group, Inc. or its subsidiaries, on behalf of individuals who purchased and consumed various brands of cigarettes, including Marlboro Lights, Marlboro Ultra Lights, Virginia Slims Lights and Superslims, Merit Lights and Cambridge Lights. Defenses raised in these cases include lack of misrepresentation, lack of causation, injury, and damages, the statute of limitations, express preemption by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act (“FCLAA”) and implied preemption by the policies and directives of the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), non-liability under state statutory provisions exempting conduct that complies with federal regulatory directives, and the First Amendment. As of January 22, 2009, eighteen cases are pending as follows: Arkansas (2), Delaware (1), Florida (1), Illinois (2), Maine (1), Massachusetts (1), Minnesota (1), Missouri (1), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (1), New York (1), Oregon (1), Tennessee (1), and West Virginia (2). In addition, a purported “Lights” class action is pending against PM USA in Israel. Other entities have stated that they are considering filing such actions against Altria Group, Inc. and PM USA.

This excerpt taken from the MO 10-Q filed Nov 3, 2008.

Overview

Plaintiffs in these class actions (some of which have not been certified as such), allege, among other things, that the uses of the terms “Lights” and/or “Ultra Lights” constitute deceptive and unfair trade practices, common law fraud, or RICO violations, and seek injunctive and equitable relief, including restitution and, in certain cases, punitive damages. These class actions have been brought against PM USA and, in certain instances, Altria Group, Inc. or its subsidiaries, on behalf of individuals who purchased and

 

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Notes to Condensed Consolidated Financial Statements

(Unaudited)

 

consumed various brands of cigarettes, including Marlboro Lights, Marlboro Ultra Lights, Virginia Slims Lights and Superslims, Merit Lights and Cambridge Lights. Defenses raised in these cases include lack of misrepresentation, lack of causation, injury, and damages, the statute of limitations, express preemption by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act and implied preemption by the policies and directives of the Federal Trade Commission, non-liability under state statutory provisions exempting conduct that complies with federal regulatory directives, and the First Amendment. Seventeen cases are pending in Arkansas (2), Delaware (1), Florida (1), Illinois (1), Maine (1), Massachusetts (1), Minnesota (1), Missouri (1), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (1), New York (1), Oregon (1), Tennessee (1), and West Virginia (2). In addition, a purported “Lights” class action is pending against PM USA in Israel. Other entities have stated that they are considering filing such actions against Altria Group, Inc. and PM USA.

This excerpt taken from the MO 8-K filed Sep 8, 2008.

Overview

Plaintiffs in these class actions (some of which have not been certified as such), allege, among other things, that the uses of the terms “Lights” and/or “Ultra Lights” constitute deceptive and unfair trade practices, common law fraud, or RICO violations, and seek injunctive and equitable relief, including restitution and, in certain cases, punitive damages. These class actions have been brought against PM USA and, in certain instances, ALG, on behalf of individuals who purchased and consumed various brands of cigarettes, including Marlboro Lights, Marlboro Ultra Lights, Virginia Slims Lights and Superslims, Merit Lights and Cambridge Lights. Defenses raised in these cases include lack of misrepresentation, lack of causation, injury, and damages, the statute of limitations, express preemption by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act and implied preemption by the policies and directives of the Federal Trade Commission, non-liability under state statutory provisions exempting conduct that complies with federal regulatory directives, and the First Amendment. Seventeen cases are pending in Arkansas (2), Delaware (1), Florida (1), Illinois (1), Maine (1), Massachusetts (1), Minnesota (1), Missouri (1), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (1), New York (1), Oregon (1), Tennessee (1), and West Virginia (2). In addition, there are two cases pending in Israel. Other entities have stated that they are considering filing such actions against ALG and PM USA.

To date, 11 courts in 12 cases have refused to certify class actions, reversed prior class certification decisions or have entered judgment in favor of PM USA. Trial courts in Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and New Jersey have refused to certify a class, an appellate court in Florida has overturned class certification by a trial court, the Ohio Supreme Court has overturned class certifications in two cases, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has dismissed a purported Lights class action brought in Louisiana federal court (Sullivan) on the grounds that plaintiffs’ claims were preempted by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, a federal trial court in Maine has dismissed a purported class action on federal preemption grounds (Good), plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed an action in a federal trial court in Michigan after the court dismissed claims asserted under the Michigan

 

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Unfair Trade and Consumer Protection Act, and the Supreme Court of Illinois has overturned a judgment in favor of a plaintiff class in the Price case. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit vacated the district court’s grant of PM USA’s motion for summary judgment in the Good case on federal preemption grounds and remanded the case to district court. The district court stayed proceedings pending the ruling of the United States Supreme Court on defendants’ petition for a writ of certiorari, which was granted on January 18, 2008. An intermediate appellate court in Oregon and the Supreme Court in Washington have denied plaintiffs’ motions for interlocutory review of the trial courts’ refusals to certify a class. Plaintiffs in the Oregon case failed to appeal by the deadline for doing so and the trial court subsequently entered judgment against plaintiffs on the ground of express preemption under the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act. In November, plaintiffs in that case (Pearson) filed a notice of appeal of the trial court’s decisions with the Oregon Court of Appeals. Plaintiffs in the case in Washington voluntarily dismissed the case with prejudice. Plaintiffs in the New Mexico case renewed their motion for class certification. Plaintiffs in the Florida case (Hines) petitioned the Florida Supreme Court for further review, and on January 14, 2008, the Florida Supreme Court denied this petition.

Trial courts have certified classes against PM USA in Massachusetts (Aspinall), Minnesota (Curtis), Missouri (Craft) and New York (Schwab). PM USA has appealed or otherwise challenged these class certification orders, and the appeal in Schwab is pending. In addition, the United States Supreme Court has reversed the trial and appellate courts’ rulings denying plaintiffs’ motion to remand the case to state trial court in a purported Lights class action brought in Arkansas (Watson). Developments in these cases include:

 

   

Watson:    In June 2007, the United States Supreme Court reversed the lower court rulings that denied plaintiffs’ motion to have the case heard in a state, as opposed to federal, trial court. The Supreme Court rejected defendants’ contention that the case must be tried in federal court under the “federal officer” statute. The case has been remanded to the state trial court in Arkansas. In December 2007, the court rejected the parties’ proposed stipulation to stay the case pending the United States Supreme Court’s decision on defendants’ petition for writ of certiorari in Good, which was granted on January 18, 2008.

 

   

Aspinall:    In August 2004, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the class certification order. In April 2006, plaintiffs filed a motion to redefine the class to include all persons who after November 25, 1994 purchased packs or cartons of Marlboro Lights cigarettes in Massachusetts that displayed the legend “Lower Tar & Nicotine” (the original class definition did not include a reference to lower tar and nicotine). In August 2006, the trial court denied PM USA’s motion for summary judgment based on the state consumer protection statutory exemption and federal preemption. On motion of the parties, the trial court has subsequently reported its decision to deny summary judgment to the appeals court for review and the trial court proceedings are stayed pending completion of the appellate review. Motions for direct appellate review with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court were granted in April 2007 and oral arguments were heard in January 2008.

 

   

Curtis:    In April 2005, the Minnesota Supreme Court denied PM USA’s petition for interlocutory review of the trial court’s class certification order. In September 2005, PM USA removed Curtis to federal court based on the Eighth Circuit’s decision in Watson, which upheld the removal of a Lights case to federal court based on the federal officer jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission. In February 2006, the federal court denied plaintiffs’ motion to remand the case to state court. The case was stayed pending the

 

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ALTRIA GROUP, INC. and SUBSIDIARIES

NOTES to CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

 

 

 

 

outcome of Dahl v. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., which was argued before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in December 2006. In February 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued its ruling in Dahl, and reversed the federal district court’s denial of plaintiffs’ motion to remand that case to the state trial court. On October 17, 2007, the district court remanded the Curtis case to state court. In December 2007, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s determination in Dahl that plaintiffs’ claims in that case were subject to express preemption and defendant in that case has petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court for review. In December 2007, defendants in Curtis moved to stay proceedings pending any appellate review by the Minnesota Supreme Court in Dahl and the United States Supreme Court in Good, which was granted on January 18, 2008.

 

   

Craft:    In August 2005, a Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the class certification order. In September 2005, PM USA removed Craft to federal court based on the Eighth Circuit’s decision in Watson. In March 2006, the federal trial court granted plaintiffs’ motion and remanded the case to the Missouri state trial court. In May 2006, the Missouri Supreme Court declined to review the trial court’s class certification decision. Trial has been set for January 2009.

 

   

Schwab:    In September 2005, the trial court granted in part defendants’ motion for partial summary judgment dismissing plaintiffs’ claims for equitable relief and denied a number of plaintiffs’ motions for summary judgment. In November 2005, the trial court ruled that the plaintiffs would be permitted to calculate damages on an aggregate basis and use “fluid recovery” theories to allocate them among class members. In September 2006, the trial court denied defendants’ summary judgment motions and granted plaintiffs’ motion for certification of a nationwide class of all United States residents that purchased cigarettes in the United States that were labeled “light” or “lights” from the first date defendants began selling such cigarettes until the date trial commences. The court also declined to certify the order for interlocutory appeal, declined to stay the case and ordered jury selection to begin in January 2007, with trial scheduled to begin immediately after the jury is impaneled. In October 2006, a single judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit granted PM USA’s petition for a temporary stay of pre-trial and trial proceedings pending disposition of the petitions for stay and interlocutory review by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals. In November 2006, the Second Circuit granted interlocutory review of the trial court’s class certification order and stayed the case before the trial court pending the appeal. Oral argument was heard on July 10, 2007.

In addition to these cases, in December 2005, in the Miner case which was pending at that time in the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, plaintiffs moved for certification of a class composed of individuals who purchased Marlboro Lights or Cambridge Lights brands in Arkansas, California, Colorado, and Michigan. PM USA’s motion for summary judgment based on preemption and the Arkansas statutory exemption is pending. Following the filing of this motion, plaintiffs moved to voluntarily dismiss Miner without prejudice, which PM USA opposed. The court then stayed the case pending the United States Supreme Court’s decision on a petition for writ of certiorari in the Watson case discussed above. In July 2007, the case was remanded to a state trial court in Arkansas. In August 2007, plaintiffs renewed their motion for class certification. In October 2007, the court denied PM USA’s motion to dismiss on procedural grounds and the court entered a case management order. The case is currently stayed pending the outcome of the United States Supreme Court’s

 

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decision in Good. The United States Supreme Court granted defendants’ petition on January 18, 2008. In addition, plaintiffs’ motion for class certification is pending in a case in Tennessee.

This excerpt taken from the MO 10-Q filed Aug 7, 2008.

Overview

Plaintiffs in these class actions (some of which have not been certified as such), allege, among other things, that the uses of the terms “Lights” and/or “Ultra Lights” constitute deceptive and unfair trade practices, common law fraud, or RICO violations, and seek injunctive and equitable relief, including restitution and, in certain cases, punitive damages. These class actions have been brought against PM USA and, in certain instances, Altria Group, Inc. or its subsidiaries, on behalf of individuals who purchased and consumed various brands of cigarettes, including Marlboro Lights, Marlboro Ultra Lights, Virginia Slims Lights and Superslims, Merit Lights and Cambridge Lights. Defenses raised in these cases include lack of misrepresentation, lack of causation, injury, and damages, the statute of limitations, express preemption by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act and implied preemption by the policies and directives of the Federal Trade Commission, non-liability under state statutory provisions exempting conduct that complies with federal regulatory directives, and the First Amendment. Seventeen cases are pending in Arkansas (2), Delaware (1), Florida (1), Illinois (1), Maine (1), Massachusetts (1), Minnesota (1), Missouri (1), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (1), New York (1), Oregon (1), Tennessee (1), and West Virginia (2). In addition, a purported “lights” class action is pending against PM USA in Israel. Other entities have stated that they are considering filing such actions against Altria Group, Inc. and PM USA.

 

-41-


Altria Group, Inc. and Subsidiaries

Notes to Condensed Consolidated Financial Statements

(Unaudited)

 

This excerpt taken from the MO 8-K filed Jun 5, 2008.

Overview

Plaintiffs in these class actions (some of which have not been certified as such), allege, among other things, that the uses of the terms “Lights” and/or “Ultra Lights” constitute deceptive and unfair trade practices, common law fraud, or RICO violations, and seek injunctive and equitable relief, including restitution and, in certain cases, punitive damages. These class actions have been brought against PM USA and, in certain instances, ALG, on behalf of individuals who purchased and consumed various brands of cigarettes, including Marlboro Lights, Marlboro Ultra Lights, Virginia Slims Lights and Superslims, Merit Lights and Cambridge Lights. Defenses raised in these cases include lack of misrepresentation, lack of causation, injury, and damages, the statute of limitations, express preemption by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act and implied preemption by the policies and directives of the Federal Trade Commission, non-liability under state statutory provisions exempting conduct that complies with federal regulatory directives, and the First Amendment. Seventeen cases are pending in Arkansas (2), Delaware (1), Florida (1), Illinois (1), Maine (1), Massachusetts (1), Minnesota (1), Missouri (1), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (1), New York (1), Oregon (1), Tennessee (1), and West Virginia (2). In addition, there are two cases pending in Israel. Other entities have stated that they are considering filing such actions against ALG and PM USA.

To date, 11 courts in 12 cases have refused to certify class actions, reversed prior class certification decisions or have entered judgment in favor of PM USA. Trial courts in Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and New Jersey have refused to certify a class, an appellate court in Florida has overturned class certification by a trial court, the Ohio Supreme Court has overturned class certifications in two cases, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has dismissed a purported Lights class action brought in Louisiana federal court (Sullivan) on the grounds that plaintiffs’ claims were preempted by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, a federal trial court in Maine has dismissed a purported class action on federal preemption grounds (Good), plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed an action in a federal trial court in Michigan after the court dismissed claims asserted under the Michigan

 

72


ALTRIA GROUP, INC. and SUBSIDIARIES

NOTES to CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

 

 

 

Unfair Trade and Consumer Protection Act, and the Supreme Court of Illinois has overturned a judgment in favor of a plaintiff class in the Price case. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit vacated the district court’s grant of PM USA’s motion for summary judgment in the Good case on federal preemption grounds and remanded the case to district court. The district court stayed proceedings pending the ruling of the United States Supreme Court on defendants’ petition for a writ of certiorari, which was granted on January 18, 2008. An intermediate appellate court in Oregon and the Supreme Court in Washington have denied plaintiffs’ motions for interlocutory review of the trial courts’ refusals to certify a class. Plaintiffs in the Oregon case failed to appeal by the deadline for doing so and the trial court subsequently entered judgment against plaintiffs on the ground of express preemption under the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act. In November, plaintiffs in that case (Pearson) filed a notice of appeal of the trial court’s decisions with the Oregon Court of Appeals. Plaintiffs in the case in Washington voluntarily dismissed the case with prejudice. Plaintiffs in the New Mexico case renewed their motion for class certification. Plaintiffs in the Florida case (Hines) petitioned the Florida Supreme Court for further review, and on January 14, 2008, the Florida Supreme Court denied this petition.

Trial courts have certified classes against PM USA in Massachusetts (Aspinall), Minnesota (Curtis), Missouri (Craft) and New York (Schwab). PM USA has appealed or otherwise challenged these class certification orders, and the appeal in Schwab is pending. In addition, the United States Supreme Court has reversed the trial and appellate courts’ rulings denying plaintiffs’ motion to remand the case to state trial court in a purported Lights class action brought in Arkansas (Watson). Developments in these cases include:

 

   

Watson:    In June 2007, the United States Supreme Court reversed the lower court rulings that denied plaintiffs’ motion to have the case heard in a state, as opposed to federal, trial court. The Supreme Court rejected defendants’ contention that the case must be tried in federal court under the “federal officer” statute. The case has been remanded to the state trial court in Arkansas. In December 2007, the court rejected the parties’ proposed stipulation to stay the case pending the United States Supreme Court’s decision on defendants’ petition for writ of certiorari in Good, which was granted on January 18, 2008.

 

   

Aspinall:    In August 2004, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the class certification order. In April 2006, plaintiffs filed a motion to redefine the class to include all persons who after November 25, 1994 purchased packs or cartons of Marlboro Lights cigarettes in Massachusetts that displayed the legend “Lower Tar & Nicotine” (the original class definition did not include a reference to lower tar and nicotine). In August 2006, the trial court denied PM USA’s motion for summary judgment based on the state consumer protection statutory exemption and federal preemption. On motion of the parties, the trial court has subsequently reported its decision to deny summary judgment to the appeals court for review and the trial court proceedings are stayed pending completion of the appellate review. Motions for direct appellate review with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court were granted in April 2007 and oral arguments were heard in January 2008.

 

   

Curtis:    In April 2005, the Minnesota Supreme Court denied PM USA’s petition for interlocutory review of the trial court’s class certification order. In September 2005, PM USA removed Curtis to federal court based on the Eighth Circuit’s decision in Watson, which upheld the removal of a Lights case to federal court based on the federal officer jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission. In February 2006, the federal court denied plaintiffs’ motion to remand the case to state court. The case was stayed pending the

 

73


ALTRIA GROUP, INC. and SUBSIDIARIES

NOTES to CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

 

 

 

 

outcome of Dahl v. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., which was argued before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in December 2006. In February 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued its ruling in Dahl, and reversed the federal district court’s denial of plaintiffs’ motion to remand that case to the state trial court. On October 17, 2007, the district court remanded the Curtis case to state court. In December 2007, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s determination in Dahl that plaintiffs’ claims in that case were subject to express preemption and defendant in that case has petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court for review. In December 2007, defendants in Curtis moved to stay proceedings pending any appellate review by the Minnesota Supreme Court in Dahl and the United States Supreme Court in Good, which was granted on January 18, 2008.

 

   

Craft:    In August 2005, a Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the class certification order. In September 2005, PM USA removed Craft to federal court based on the Eighth Circuit’s decision in Watson. In March 2006, the federal trial court granted plaintiffs’ motion and remanded the case to the Missouri state trial court. In May 2006, the Missouri Supreme Court declined to review the trial court’s class certification decision. Trial has been set for January 2009.

 

   

Schwab:    In September 2005, the trial court granted in part defendants’ motion for partial summary judgment dismissing plaintiffs’ claims for equitable relief and denied a number of plaintiffs’ motions for summary judgment. In November 2005, the trial court ruled that the plaintiffs would be permitted to calculate damages on an aggregate basis and use “fluid recovery” theories to allocate them among class members. In September 2006, the trial court denied defendants’ summary judgment motions and granted plaintiffs’ motion for certification of a nationwide class of all United States residents that purchased cigarettes in the United States that were labeled “light” or “lights” from the first date defendants began selling such cigarettes until the date trial commences. The court also declined to certify the order for interlocutory appeal, declined to stay the case and ordered jury selection to begin in January 2007, with trial scheduled to begin immediately after the jury is impaneled. In October 2006, a single judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit granted PM USA’s petition for a temporary stay of pre-trial and trial proceedings pending disposition of the petitions for stay and interlocutory review by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals. In November 2006, the Second Circuit granted interlocutory review of the trial court’s class certification order and stayed the case before the trial court pending the appeal. Oral argument was heard on July 10, 2007.

In addition to these cases, in December 2005, in the Miner case which was pending at that time in the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, plaintiffs moved for certification of a class composed of individuals who purchased Marlboro Lights or Cambridge Lights brands in Arkansas, California, Colorado, and Michigan. PM USA’s motion for summary judgment based on preemption and the Arkansas statutory exemption is pending. Following the filing of this motion, plaintiffs moved to voluntarily dismiss Miner without prejudice, which PM USA opposed. The court then stayed the case pending the United States Supreme Court’s decision on a petition for writ of certiorari in the Watson case discussed above. In July 2007, the case was remanded to a state trial court in Arkansas. In August 2007, plaintiffs renewed their motion for class certification. In October 2007, the court denied PM USA’s motion to dismiss on procedural grounds and the court entered a case management order. The case is currently stayed pending the outcome of the United States Supreme Court’s

 

74


ALTRIA GROUP, INC. and SUBSIDIARIES

NOTES to CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

 

 

 

decision in Good. The United States Supreme Court granted defendants’ petition on January 18, 2008. In addition, plaintiffs’ motion for class certification is pending in a case in Tennessee.

This excerpt taken from the MO 10-Q filed May 9, 2008.

Overview

Plaintiffs in these class actions (some of which have not been certified as such), allege, among other things, that the uses of the terms “Lights” and/or “Ultra Lights” constitute deceptive and unfair trade practices, common law fraud, or RICO violations, and seek injunctive and equitable relief, including restitution and, in

 

-38-


Table of Contents

Altria Group, Inc. and Subsidiaries

Notes to Condensed Consolidated Financial Statements

(Unaudited)

 

certain cases, punitive damages. These class actions have been brought against PM USA and, in certain instances, Altria Group, Inc. or its subsidiaries, on behalf of individuals who purchased and consumed various brands of cigarettes, including Marlboro Lights, Marlboro Ultra Lights, Virginia Slims Lights and Superslims, Merit Lights and Cambridge Lights. Defenses raised in these cases include lack of misrepresentation, lack of causation, injury, and damages, the statute of limitations, express preemption by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act and implied preemption by the policies and directives of the Federal Trade Commission, non-liability under state statutory provisions exempting conduct that complies with federal regulatory directives, and the First Amendment. Seventeen cases are pending in Arkansas (2), Delaware (1), Florida (1), Illinois (1), Maine (1), Massachusetts (1), Minnesota (1), Missouri (1), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (1), New York (1), Oregon (1), Tennessee (1), and West Virginia (2). Other entities have stated that they are considering filing such actions against Altria Group, Inc. and PM USA.

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