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Cipollone v. Liggett Group Inc.

April 7, 1986

ANTONIO CIPOLLONE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF ROSE D. CIPOLLONE
v.
LIGGETT GROUP, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION; PHILIP MORRIS INCORPORATED, A VIRGINIA CORPORATION AND LOEW'S THEATRES, INC., A NEW YORK CORPORATION LIGGETT GROUP, INC., APPELLANT IN 85-5073 LOEW'S THEATRES, INC., APPELLANT IN 85-5074



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey -- Newark. D.C. No. 83-2864.

Author: Hunter

Before HUNTER, SLOVITER, Circuit Judges, and GILES,*fn* District Judge.

Opinion OF THE COURT

HUNTER, Circuit Judge:

1. This case, before the court on the district court's certification pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) (1982), presents the question whether the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1331-1340 (1982) (the "Act"), preempts any or all of the state common law claims brought by appellee Antonio Cipollone and his wife Rose in the district court. Several of the claims in the Cipollones' complaint concern the alleged failure of the defendants, Liggett Group, Inc., Philip Morris Incoporated, Loews Corporation, Loew's Theatres Inc. ("Lorillard"), to provide an adequate warning of the dangers of the cigarettes that they manufactured and sold. Because these claims implicate the legislatively mandated warning provided in section 1333 of the Act, the answers of Liggett Group, Philip Morris, and Lorillard each included a defense based on the preemptive effect of the Act. The Cipollones responded by filing a motion to strike the preemption defenses. Lorillard, later joined by Philip Morris, then moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule Civil Procedure 12(c). Holding that the Act preempted none of the Cipollones' claims, the district court granted the Cipollones' motion to strike the defenses and denied the motion for judgment on the pleadings. Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., 593 F. Supp. 1146, 1171 (D.N.J. 1984). On January 21, 1984, this court granted appellants Lorillard and Liggett Group permission to appeal.*fn1 Because we disagree with the district court's conclusion concerning the preemptive effect of the Act, we will reverse the district court's grant of the motion to strike and will remand the case for further proceedings.

I.

A. The Complaint

2. In their complaint, Rose and Antonio Cipollone alleged that Mrs. Cipollone developed lung cancer as a result of smoking cigarettes manufactured and sold by appellants. The complaint, which was originally filed on August 1, 1983, further averred that Mrs. Cipollone began smoking in 1942 and developed lung cancer as a result of her smoking. Mrs. Cipollone died in October 1984, but her husband has continued prosecuting this action, individually and as executor of his wife's estate. Mr. Cipollone is therefore the sole appellee in this case.

3. As observed by the district court, the fourteen-count complaint sets forth claims based on strict liability (Counts 2, 3, and 9), negligence (Counts 4 and 5), breach of warranty (Count 7), and intentional tort (Counts 6 and 8). The Cipollones claimed that the defendants' cigarettes were unsafe and defective (Count 2) and that defendants are subject to liability for their failure to warn of the hazards of cigarette smoking on the basis of negligence (Count 4) or strict liability (Count 3). In addition, the Cipollones asserted, defendants negligently (Count 5) or intentionally (Count 6) advertised their products in a manner that neutralized the warnings actually provided, warnings made meaningless by the addiction created by cigarettes (Count 9). Finally, the complaint stated that the defendants ignored, failed to act upon, and conspired to deprive the public of medical and scientific data reflecting the dangers associated with cigarettes (Count 8).*fn2

B. The Federal Cigarette and Advertising Labeling Act

4. The Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, originally enacted in 1965, was a response to a growing awareness among members of federal as well as state government that cigarette smoking posed a significant health threat to Americans. The original Act required the following warning label on cigarette packages: "Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health." 15 U.S.C. § 1333 (1970). Congress changed this warning, by amendment to the Act in 1969, to the following: "Warning: The Surgeon General Has Determined That Cigarette Smoking Is Dangerous to Your Health." 15 U.S.C. § 1333 (1976).*fn3 The Act, as amended in 1970, expressly stated the policy behind the required warning:

It is the policy of the Congress, and the purpose of this chapter, to establish a comprehensive Federal program to deal with cigarette labeling and advertising with respect to any relationship between smoking and health, whereby --

(1) the public may be adequately informed that cigarette smoking may be hazardous to health by inclusion of a warning to that effect on each package of cigarettes; and

(2) commerce and the national economy may be (A) protected to the maximum extent consistent with this declared policy and (B) not impeded by diverse, nonuniform, and confusing cigarette labeling and advertising regulations ...


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