By Dow Jones Business News, September 24, 2013, 08:57:00 PM EDT
(Updates with more details from the California court's ruling.)
By John Kell
Altria Group Inc. ( MO ) on Tuesday said a California Superior Court issued a ruling in favor of the tobacco giant,
rejecting plaintiffs' efforts to seek a refund for money spent on cigarettes that were allegedly falsely advertised as "
The plaintiffs claimed in a lawsuit originally filed in June 1997 that Altria'sPhilip Morris USA unit violated state
law by using the terms "Lights" and "Lowered Tar and Nicotine" on cigarette packages. Altria said plaintiffs sought to
recover some money paid by California smokers who purchased Marlboro Lights between 1998 and 2001.
But Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager rejected the request for injunctive relief. In his decision, he wrote
plaintiffs waived any right to relief or corrective advertising in the Master Settlement Agreement, a pact that has led
Altria to pay California$5.8 billion, with more payments to continue.
According to the court ruling, evidence in the case also showed that the descriptors--including "Marlboro Lights" and
the words "lowered tar and nicotine"--on which the plaintiffs based their case have been removed and, because of later
changes to the law, cannot be used again.
"Since there is little likelihood that the conduct giving rise to this case will re-occur, the claim for injunctive
relief is moot," the judge wrote.
The Food and Drug Administration now prohibits the use of "lights" and other descriptors unless a manufacturer
receives authorization for such terms. The FDA began regulating tobacco products in 2009, after the Family Smoking
Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was signed into law.
Write to John Kell at email@example.com
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