v American Tobacco, R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, Philip Morris, Lorillard, United States Tobacco, and the Tobacco Institute
Civil District Court, Parish of Orleans, State of Louisiana (No. 96-8461)
The Honorable Richard J. Ganucheau presiding
Verdict for the Plaintiffs
This was a class action against several tobacco companies on behalf of Louisiana smokers. The suit alleged that the companies defrauded the plaintiffs, “distorting the entire body of public knowledge” about the addictive effects of nicotine. Gloria Scott, the representative plaintiff in the case, was diagnosed with lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 2000. The Scott class sought funds from the tobacco companies for medical monitoring regarding injuries and potential injuries attributable to cigarette consumption.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals of Louisiana required defendants to pay $241,540,488 (plus interest to fund a 10-year smoking cessation program for the benefit of the members of the plaintiff class.
Plaintiff Attorneys: Castano P.L.C.
Defense Attorneys: Phil Wittmann, Philip Morris
- 1996 – May 24: Case filed
- 1997 – April: Class certified
- 1998 – November: Intermediate appellate court affirms certification
- 1999 – February: Louisiana Supreme Court declines to hear appeal
- 2001 – May: Judge issues trial plan; defendants appeal
- 2001 – June: Louisiana Court of Appeals denies motion to vacate trial plan
- 2001 – December: Court of Appeals grants in part the defendants’ writs asserting errors in jury selection. Jury selection reopens.
- 2002 – November 15: Louisiana Supreme Court vacates and remands Court of Appeals decision allowing the defenses and orders the trial bifurcated. (830 So.2d 294)
- 2003 – November 4: Judge Richard J. Ganucheau issues per curium order
- 2004 – May 21: Jury returns Phase I verdict. Judge awards judgment to plaintiffs independent of jury verdict.
- 2007 – February 7: Louisiana Court of Appeal, Fourth Circuit affirms judgment in part, amends in part, reverses in part and remands the case.
- 2007 – May 17: Gloria Scott dies. The case continues with Deanna M. Johnson as principal plaintiff.
- 2008 – January 9: Louisiana Supreme Court denies defendants’ appeal.
- 2008 – July: Tobacco companies are ordered to pay up.
The Scott class consisted of all Louisiana residents “who are or who were smokers on or before May 24, 1996, of cigarettes manufactured by the defendants, who desire to participate in a program designed to assist them in the cessation of smoking and/or to monitor the medical condition of class members to ascertain whether they may be suffering from diseases caused by, contributed to, or exacerbated by the habit of cigarette smoking, provided the class member alleges that he or she commenced smoking before September 1, 1988 or that one or more defendants actively and intentionally engaged in a course of conduct designed to undermine or eliminate compliance with or attention to warnings on cigarette packaging.”
When the class was certified in April 1997, the judge ruled that “comparative fault” and “assumption of risk” were inapplicable, as was “failure to mitigate”, since a cessation program was the relief sought. The defendants appealed, but the Louisiana Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal.
In 2002, the Louisiana Supreme Court found that principles of individual causation did not need to be determined until the defendants’ liability had been established. The court ordered the trial bifurcated, with Phase I consisting of “common issues of fault and causation and class-wide defenses.” The Supreme Court left it to the trial court to formulate subsequent phase plans for individualized issues.
Judge Ganucheau’s per curium order, issued in November 2003 found “that the class of Louisiana smokers has demonstrated a need for court-administered programs designed to assist the class of Louisiana smokers who desire to quit smoking and to prevent relapse. . . .”
See the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s description of the Phase I verdict and subsequent appeal.
In January 2008, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied the defendants’ appeal, and in July of that year, the tobacco companies were ordered to pay damages. See the Times-Picayune’s accounts of final outcomes.