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Class Action Suit Against Cigarette Makers Not Allowed
Description Trial court refused to allow a suit against cigarette makers to be certified as a class action on behalf of an estimated 65,000 people in New York suffering from significant health damage due to smoking. There are too many issues to be determined on an individual basis for there to be a class action.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Class Action; Certification
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Several plaintiffs sued cigarette makers for various tort claims related to health damage from smoking. They requested to have the case proceed as a class action on behalf of 65,000 similarly situated persons in New York. They argued that a "class action is superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy."
Decision Motion denied. New York's rule about class actions is the same as the federal rule. This class action cannot be certified because "the number and significance of individual issues overwhelm those which are arguable common to the class." There are many different health issues involved and the assumption of the risk defense must be considered for each individual plaintiff. Further, different persons smoked different brands of cigarettes. Similarly, compensatory and punitive damages must be proven on an individual basis. The class would be so splintered that there would be no great saving from trying to run the case in that manner.
Citation Geiger v. American Tobacco Company, - N.Y.S.2d - (1999 WL 731445, Sup. Ct., N.Y.)

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