Provost Umphrey attorneys file class action in Beaumont over light cigarettes

David Yates Jul. 23, 2009, 9:37am


Provost Umphrey attorneys Bryan Blevins and John Cowan have recently filed a class action in federal court over light cigarettes.

Earlier this month, the Southeast Texas Record reported on a lawsuit filed in Arkansas alleging that the country's largest tobacco companies have been misleading consumers on the actual nicotine and tar content of their light cigarettes.

Blevins' suit, which was filed July 20 in the Eastern District of Texas, mirrors the Arkansas suit and accuses Philip Morris, Altria Group and Reynolds American of deceiving consumers.

The Provost Umphrey law firm was also involved in the filing of the Arkansas suit.

The proposed class is represented by Jefferson County resident David Charles V. Hanson III, who claims the defendants misled him into believing light cigarettes were less harmful than regular cigarettes.

According to the suit, Hanson started purchasing various brands of cigarettes in the 1950s.

He claims he first smoked regular cigarettes, but then switched to light brands "believing that Defendants' light cigarettes delivered less tar and nicotine and were less harmful," the complaint states.

The consumer class action will include all Texas residents who from July 20, 2005 until the end of the litigation purchased cigarettes labeled as "light" or "ultra-lights." So far, the class includes at least 100 members seeking more than $5 million in damages.

"This consumer class action concerns Defendants' ... advertising of light cigarettes as delivering less nicotine ... and being less harmful ... despite Defendants knowledge that these representations were false," the suit states.

The suit accuses the defendants of designing their light cigarettes to register lower levels of tar and nicotine during testing than the levels actually delivered to consumers.

The plaintiff argues the tobacco companies intentionally manipulated the design and content "by modifying the tobacco blend, weight, rod length, and circumference, using reconstituted tobacco sheets and expanded tobacco; and by increasing the smoke PH levels of the cigarettes through chemical processing and the use of additive such as ammonia, resulting in the delivery of great amounts of tar and nicotine."

The suit alleges that the defendants knew that their representations that light cigarettes delivered less nicotine and were less harmful were false, deceptive, misleading and unfair.

The defendants are accused of breaching express and implied warranties, violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, unjust enrichment and fraudulent concealment.

The lawsuit requests a restitution of money paid at retail for light cigarettes, disgorgement of profits, the establishment of a constructive trust to reimburse the class for economic damages and establishment of a smoker cessation program.

Plaintiffs are seeking actual, compensatory and consequential damages, but not damages for personal injury or health care claims.

Blevins is lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield.

Case No: 1:09cv00704-TH

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