The U.S. Supreme Court, without taking action, has ended a 17-year old lawsuit that had its beginnings in Madison County. The high court opted not to hear a petition for review from the plaintiffs in a case involving so-called “light” cigarettes; essentially closing the case that at one time included a $10-billion decision against tobacco giant Phillip Morris.
Plaintiff’s attorneys had hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would comment on an Illinois Supreme Court ruling in favor of the tobacco companies in a case that attempted to reinstate the financial verdict. During the lead up to the case, plaintiffs attorneys called on Justice Lloyd Karmeier to recuse himself from the case due to a conflict of interest. Plaintiffs accused Karmeier from taking campaign contributions from tobacco companies during his retention campaign, and special interests groups spent more than $1-million against his candidacy. Now retired Madison County Judge Nicholas Byron heard the original case in Madison County in 2003, resulting in a $10.5 billion decision in favor of smokers. Phillip Morris appealed the decision and in 2005, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of the company. The lack of action by the high court brings an end to the appeals and ongoing litigation in the case.