Court Revives Smoker’s Lawsuit Against Altria

     (CN) – The 9th Circuit reinstated an Alaska widow’s lawsuit against Altria Group’s Philip Morris USA on behalf of her smoker-husband who died of lung cancer because her state product liability claims were not preempted by federal law.

     Dolores Hunter sued on behalf of her deceased common-law husband, Benjamin Francis, but Altria and Philip Morris argued that the state claims against them and retailer Alaska Commercial could not go forward because a victory would result in the ban of sales of cigarettes in Alaska.
     A lower court dismissed the case, saying Hunter failed to identify the specific products Francis used, and that any product liability claims were preempted by the congressional intent not to ban the sale of cigarettes, the opinion stated.
     In overturning the decision, the circuit found that Altria, failed to show a “clear conflict between Hunter’s claim and federal law,” and that U.S. laws “do not provide strong evidence of a federal policy against more stringent state regulation.”
     The three-judge panel in Anchorage sent the lawsuit back to the Alaska state court.
     Hunter sued after Francis died in December 2004 of lung cancer at age of 52.

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