SPRINGFIELD — Will plaintiffs who lost the most recent round of battles in the $10.1 billion Price v. Philip Morris case seek relief at the nation's highest court?
On Jan. 11, the Illinois Supreme Court denied Stephen Tillery’s plea to recall a 2006 Court-issued mandate that struck down the verdict involving the marketing of "light" cigarettes.
The Price case was originally filed in February 2000 in Madison County. The plaintiffs alleged that Phillip Morris, violated the Consumer Fraud Act by marketing Marlboro Lights and Cambridge Lights cigarettes with terminology that implied the cigarettes had lower tar and nicotine levels. The plaintiffs argued that the advertisements were deceptive and misleading.
Circuit Court Judge Nicholas Byron granted judgment totaling $10.1 billion for all purchasers of the light cigarettes in Illinois from 1971 to 2001. Byron also granted the plaintiff’s legal team $1.8 billion.
In 2005, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the circuit court decision in accordance FTC laws that overrode state law. The plaintiffs then petitioned the United States Supreme Court in 2006 while the court stayed its mandate and eventually dropped the plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice. In 2008, the plaintiffs commenced to file a petition in Madison County, disputing the FTC claims.
Years of litigation followed between the courts until Nov. 4 when Illinois Supreme Court Justices, including Justice Lloyd Karmeier, denied Tillery’s request. They informed him that he should have come directly to them in lieu of reopening the case in circuit court.
“It was a very substantial judgment," said Michael Resis, attorney with SmithAmundsen in Chicago and First Vice-President of the Illinois Defense Council."That gives a lot of incentive to litigate, and I think the way it has played out is reflective of the size of the judgment, and the potential payoff if that judgment were able to withstand review, which it did not."
The Illinois Defense Council has supported the position of Philip Morris during the course of the litigation by filing briefs in support of dismissing the case.
Two weeks after refusing Tillery’s request, the Court also denied Tillery’s motion to disqualify Justice Lloyd Karmeier from hearing the case.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court maintained that the appellate justices’ judgments had no validity as they were acting as a superior court. Justice Robert Thomas was the only justice who did not participate in the hearing.
“The appeal is certainly complete at the highest level in the state of Illinois,” said Resis.
However, as to whether or not Tillery will appeal to the United States Supreme Court, Resis refrained from speculation, but says it's certainly possible.
“Mr. Tillery did appeal the original Supreme Court decision and the United States Supreme Court denied his appeal back in 2007," he said. "Could he appeal? It’s up to him, but the Supreme Court has already denied his appeal once before.”