Tillery takes another swing at reviving 'Price' verdict

Steve Korris Aug. 6, 2009, 12:00pm




MOUNT VERNON – Stephen Tillery of St. Louis persists in pleading for a chance to prove that the Illinois Supreme Court committed an error when it discarded a $10 billion class action verdict he won against cigarette maker Philip Morris USA in 2003.

"Philip Morris initially prevailed in the Illinois Supreme Court by inaccurately representing the facts surrounding the history of tobacco regulation," Tillery wrote in a July 13 brief for the Fifth District appellate court in Mount Vernon.

He wrote that the U.S. government, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Federal Trade Commission have all rejected the representations of Philip Morris.

Tillery wants the Fifth District to reverse Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth, who ruled in February that plaintiff Sharon Price couldn't reopen the case.

Ruth held that the statute of limitations ran out because Tillery didn't try to reopen the case within two years of the Supreme Court's final judgment.

On appeal, Tillery argues that the Supreme Court sent the case back to former circuit judge Nicholas Byron for final judgment.

"If the circuit court's 'final judgment' was not a final judgment and if the Price decision was, the circuit court's order would have been unnecessary and the Illinois Supreme Court would not have directed the circuit court to enter it," he wrote.

He wrote that Ruth ruled on a hypothetical petition.

"This is improper," Tillery wrote. "Whether plaintiff's position had merit was never addressed by the circuit court."

Tillery sued Philip Morris in 2000, claiming it misled Price and other smokers to expect health benefits from "light" and "low tar" cigarettes.

He sought damages equal to the difference between what smokers paid for cigarettes and what they would have paid if Philip Morris hadn't misled them.

After a bench trial Byron awarded billions in damages to millions of smokers, along with billions in interest and $1.8 billion in fees for Tillery and associates.

In 2005 the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Price couldn't recover damages because Congress and the Federal Trade Commission authorized light and low tar labeling.

Last year Tillery asserted that a new U.S. Supreme Court decision, Good v. Altria, vindicated his position and exposed the error of the Illinois Supreme Court.

The Fifth District awaits a response from Philip Morris.

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