Altria v Good affirmed 5-4

by Ted Frank on December 15, 2008

The Supreme Court rejected (h/t Beck/Herrmann) tobacco companies’ argument that the FTC’s use of the Cambridge Filter Method standard of measuring tar and nicotine impliedly preempted lawsuits against the tobacco companies for advertising their cigarettes using data from the Cambridge Filter Method standard of measuring tar and nicotine.  The fact that the federal government disavowed preemption lends another data point in support of Professor Catherine Sharkey’s argument that the Court tends to defer to the Solicitor General’s position on preemption disputes.  Justice Thomas’s dissent, which would undo the unworkable Cipollone plurality, appears to me to be the stronger argument, but it didn’t carry the Kennedy Five.

The fact pattern is the subject of numerous multi-billion dollar lawsuits against tobacco companies alleging that their sales of light cigarettes are fraudulent.  The light-cigarette consumer fraud litigation still suffers from constitutional flaws relating to due process in aggregate litigation, but these remain to be resolved.