MOUNT VERNON – Three months after Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth signed the third order in four years dismissing Stephen Tillery’s $10 billion class action against cigarette maker Philip Morris, Tillery’s appeal of the order has barely begun.
He and Philip Morris jointly kicked off proceedings at the Fifth District appeals court in Mount Vernon on April 23, by agreeing to leave most of the file in Edwardsville.
They stipulated that they would truncate the nine year record, sending everything from the last three years but very little from the first six.
Tillery had already served notice that he would appeal Ruth’s Feb. 4 order, but the Fifth District couldn’t move without a record.
Ruth inherited the case from retired judge Nicholas Byron, who at a bench trial in 2003 awarded about $9 billion in damages to smokers of light and low tar cigarettes.
He ruled that Philip Morris deceived them into believing they reduced health hazards by smoking light and low tar cigarettes.
Byron also awarded about $1.8 billion to Tillery’s legal team.
When Philip Morris appealed, Byron required an appeal bond and Madison County spent the interest it received on the bond.
In 2005 the Illinois Supreme Court overturned the verdict, holding that the Federal Trade Commission specifically authorized light and low tar labeling.
The Justices told Byron to dismiss it, but that didn’t happen right away.
Tillery asked for rehearing and didn’t get it. He petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review and didn’t get it.
In 2006 Byron dismissed the case.
In 2007 Tillery moved to reopen it, arguing that the Federal Trade Commission informed the U.S. Supreme Court that it didn’t authorize light and low tar labels.
Byron asked the Fifth District to rule on his jurisdiction, but Philip Morris obtained a supervisory order from the Illinois Supreme Court to halt the proceedings.
Byron again dismissed the case.
Byron retired in December and his cases passed to Ruth.
In January the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that smokers could pursue a similar claim in Maine federal court under Maine law.
Tillery moved to reopen his case, claiming the decision counted as new evidence.
Philip Morris answered that a two year statute of limitations on new evidence ran out.
At a hearing Tillery said the statute started running with Byron’s most recent order.
Ruth ruled that it started running when the Illinois Supreme Court reversed Byron.