Tillery attorney advocates for adding personal injury claims to Consumer Fraud Act; Measure passes Senate Judiciary

By Record News | May 3, 2019

Robert King and Stephen Tillery  

SPRINGFIELD – Stephen Tillery of St. Louis, whose plan to turn cigarettes from a health issue into an economic issue fell through, may be starting over by adding personal injuries to the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act.

The addition came before the Senate judiciary committee as House Bill 2472 on May 1, and Robert King of Tillery’s office in Chicago spoke as the only witness. 

The Senators passed it 7-3. 

Tillery filed a class action against Philip Morris in Madison County in 2001, under the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act. 

He claimed Philip Morris promoted health benefits for light and low tar labels but smokers received no benefit. He alleged injury to pocketbooks, not lungs. 

The class action sought to recover the difference between what smokers paid and what they would have paid if Philip Morris hadn’t deceived them. 

Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron held a bench trial in 2003, and entered judgment for lead plaintiff Sharon Price. 

Philip Morris petitioned the Supreme Court to skip the Fifth District appellate court and grant direct review. 

The Supreme Court took it directly and reversed Byron in 2005. 

The Justices found the Federal Trade Commission authorized Philip Morris to sell light and low tar brands, and that federal regulation prevailed over state law. 

Tillery petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review but didn’t get it. 

At the Senate committee hearing on Wednesday, King said HB 2427 would preserve the original intent behind the act, which legislators passed in 1961, and amended in 1973.    

Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) brought up Philip Morris and asked if the bill would allow a suit for harm if a federal agency condoned the product. 

King said Price was strictly about deceptive sale of light cigarettes. 

He said the U.S. Supreme Court overruled it two years later. 

He stretched the point, for Tillery tried but failed to persuade Illinois Supreme Court Justices that the U.S. Supreme Court required them to reverse themselves. 

Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) asked King how the bill would impact licensed public use of marijuana. 

Barickman said some say it causes bodily harm, and he asked if the bill would permit a user to have claims. 

King said the act applies to any seller who engages in practices subject to it. 

Under the bill, co-sponsored in the House by trial bar-aligned Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville), regulatory approval would continue to preclude economic damages but would not preclude damages for injury, death, or property damage. 

It would apply to manufacture, distribution, or sale of products or services. 

Sen. Terry Link (D-Gurnee) is Senate sponsor. 

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