Lawsuits Against Tobacco Companies for Failure to Warn

In Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., 505 U.S. 504, 524, 120 L. Ed. 2d 407, 112 S. Ct. 2608 (1992), the United States Supreme Court was asked to consider whether state common law actions filed against tobacco companies for failure to warn, breach of warranty, fraudulent misrepresentation, and conspiracy were preempted by either the 1965 or 1969 Acts. A plurality of the United States Supreme Court held that the 1965 Act only preempted state and federal rulemaking bodies from mandating particular cautionary statements and did not preempt state-law damages actions. See id. at 519-20. However, the Court came to a different conclusion regarding the 1969 Act. The plurality addressed each of the claims separately. First, the plurality held that the 1969 Act expressly preempts post-1969 failure-to-warn claims that cigarette "advertising or promotions should have included additional, or more clearly stated, warnings." Id. at 524. The plurality added that the "[1969] Act does not, however, pre-empt petitioner's claims that rely solely on respondent's testing or research practices or other actions unrelated to advertising or promotion." Id. at 524-25. Next, the plurality concluded that express warranty claims were not preempted by the 1969 Act because liability for express warranty is not imposed under state law but rather by the warrantor's express actions. See id. at 525-27. The plurality also concluded that the 1969 Act does not preempt fraudulent misrepresentation claims because fraudulent misrepresentation claims are based on a state law duty not to deceive rather than a state law duty "based on smoking and health." Id. at 528-29. Finally, the plurality concluded that the 1969 Act does not preempt conspiracy to defraud claims because such claims are based on a duty not to conspire to commit fraud rather than a duty "based on smoking and health." Id. at 530.