Mistrial Declared in Light-Cigarette Lawsuit

Jurors unable to reach decision in Missouri case

ST. LOUIS -- A judge in St. Louis has declared a mistrial in the lawsuit against Philip Morris USA alleging that Missouri smokers were misled into believing that light cigarettes were safer than regular ones.

According to The Associated Press, The ruling by St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael David ends a $700-million class-action suit that was filed in 2000 and went to trial just last month.

Jurors, in their fifth day of deliberation had voted 8-4 in favor of the plaintiffs, according to their attorney Stephen Swedlow, just one vote shy of the nine needed to return a civil verdict under Missouri law.

"We’ll try this case again and just work harder to convince a ninth juror to understand that this was about Philip Morris' decision to deceive customers to get them to buy a product that was no safer than regular cigarettes," he said in a news release.

Murray Garnick, an Altria vice president and associate general counsel, said in a statement, "Today's mistrial shows that the plaintiffs failed to convince a jury of their claims. We continue to believe that these claims are baseless and today's mistrial shows that we have powerful defense in these 'Lights' cases.”

A judge in nearby Madison County, Ill., sided against Philip Morris in 2003, awarding a $10.1 billion verdict over the marketing of "light" cigarettes in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Illinois smokers. That decision was overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2005, and the case remains under appeal.

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