|Jump to full article: Dow Jones News Service, 2008-12-16|
New York's highest court on Tuesday upheld a lower court's decision tossing out a product-liability claim over the sale of regular cigarettes with higher levels of tar and nicotine than so-called "light" cigarettes.
In a 6-1 decision, the New York State Court of Appeals found lawyers for late smoker Norma Rose failed to prove - and didn't try to prove - that smokers enjoy "light" cigarettes as well as regular cigarettes.
The court found that was a necessary element in determining whether cigarette companies were liable for not selling a "safer" product. Rose's lawyers had argued at trial that a jury could find that light cigarettes were safer than regular cigarettes, the court said.
"It is not necessary in every product liability case that the plaintiff show the safer product is as acceptable to consumers as the one the defendant sold; but such a showing is necessary where, as here, satisfying the consumer is the only function the product has," the court found.
. . .
"A strong argument can be made that, when the pleasure they give smokers is balanced against the harm they do, regular cigarettes are worse than useless," the court found. "But it is still lawful for people to buy and smoke regular cigarettes, and for cigarette companies to sell them. To hold, as plaintiffs ask, that every sale of regular cigarettes exposes the manufacturer to tort liability would amount to a judicial ban on the product."
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