Cigarette “Lights” Class Action Lawsuits Can’t Be Pulled Out of State Court

The Supreme Court has just ruled in Watson v. Philip Morris that the tobacco companies can’t pull lawsuits against them out of state court into federal court based on the federal officer statute, which allows federal officers and those who act under their direction to have lawsuits or prosecutions against them removed from state court to federal court.

The Supreme Court’s ruling involved a lawsuit against Philip Morris for selling “light” cigarettes, which supposedly understate the health risks of smoking. Philip Morris said its labeling of cigarettes is based on testing methods prescribed in minute detail by federal regulators, so it should be able to remove any such lawsuit against it from state court into federal court.

The court’s ruling is summarized by Ross Runkel’s Supreme Court Times and described by CNN, the Chicago Tribune, and Bloomberg.

Ted Frank of the American Enterprise Institute, who predicted the Supreme Court’s decision, notes that the Court’s decision may lead to the revival of “three bogus consumer-fraud class actions over light cigarettes,” which will “return to state court in Minnesota, Missouri, and Arkansas.