Altria Group Philip Morris USA unit falsely marketed its “light” cigarettes as a healthier choice than regular cigarettes and should pay $543.6 million in restitution to California smokers, a lawyer said at the start of a trial, according to a story in Bloomburg News.
Mark Robinson, who represents smokers who brought the lawsuit as a class action, said in state court in San Diego today he will present internal Philip Morris documents proving its top executives were aware that Marlboro Lights were as addictive and dangerous to smokers as Marlboro Reds and continued selling the Lights as a healthy alternative.
“Their own documents tell the truth,” Robinson said in his opening statement at the nonjury trial. He said financial experts will testify in support of his request for damages for a class of smokers from January 1998 to April 2001.
The case, filed in 1997, accused Philip Morris and other tobacco companies of making misleading statements about the health risks and addictiveness of smoking, and sought restitution for money that smokers spent on cigarettes.
Philip Morris USA, based in Richmond, Virginia, is the only remaining defendant in the case and the only claim still at issue is that it made false statements concerning light cigarettes. California Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Prager is presiding over the trial.