Byron lays to rest Tillery's tobacco hopes with stroke of pen
Madison County Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron signed away the last vestige of his $10 billion verdict against cigarette maker Philip Morris on Aug. 30.
Byron vacated a May 9 order asking Fifth District appellate judges if he could reopen the case.
The Fifth District never got a chance to answer.
Philip Morris in May asked the Illinois Supreme Court for a supervisory order to halt the appeal, and in August the Court granted it.
Byron tried the case in 2003, as a class action.
Plaintiff attorney Stephen Tillery of St. Louis claimed three million smokers overpaid for "light" cigarettes.
He argued that light labels deceived them into expecting health benefits.
Tillery sought damages equal to the difference between what they paid and what they would have paid if they had known the truth.
He presented a statistical model setting damages at almost $5 billion.
Byron granted judgment in favor of the class and adopted Tillery's damage model to the penny.
He added years of interest and granted Tillery a fee of about $1.8 billion.
Philip Morris asked the Supreme Court to skip the Fifth District and take direct jurisdiction over an appeal.
At first the Justices declined, but they changed their minds and granted direct appeal.
They reversed Byron in 2005, finding that federal law pre-empted state law because the Federal Trade Commission authorized light labels.
Tillery asked for reconsideration but he did not get it.
He asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a hearing but he did not get it.
Last December, Byron entered judgment dismissing the suit.
Tillery moved in January to vacate or withhold the judgment.
He claimed the U.S. Supreme Court would render an opinion in a Philip Morris case that would force the Illinois Supreme Court to reverse its error.
Byron's order certifying the question of jurisdiction to the Fifth District kept Tillery's hope alive.
When Philip Morris asked the Illinois Supreme Court to keep the case out of the Fifth District, Tillery argued for leaving it there.
While Justices in Springfield pondered the matter, Justices in Washington rendered a unanimous decision in the other Philip Morris case.
Nothing in it supported Tillery's position.
He did not even compose an argument explaining why the new decision should change the old decision.
Six Illinois Justices granted the supervisory order putting the case to rest.
Two dissented and one did not participate.
Byron's Aug. 30 order vacated his May 9 order and denied Tillery's motion to vacate or withhold the judgment of last December.
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