The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether federal law shields cigarette companies from claims that they do not give smokers adequate warnings about health hazards.
The justices, for the first time granting review in a dispute over the dangers of smoking, said they will enter a long-running battle between the tobacco industry and the family of a New Jersey woman who died of lung cancer.A ruling in the case of Rose Cipollone is expected in 1992. If the tobacco industry loses, it could face new lawsuits seeking untold millions of dollars.
The case acted on Monday began in 1983 when Antonio and Rose Cipollone of Little Ferry, N.J., sued three companies that manufactured the cigarettes she smoked.
A federal jury in 1988 ordered Liggett Group Inc. to pay Antonio Cipollone $400,000 but absolved Philip Morris Inc. and Lorillard Inc., owned by Loew's Theatres Inc. The award was the nation's first money damage judgment against the tobacco industry.
Marc Edell, a lawyer for Cipollone, said the case potentially has enormous importance for smokers and cigarette companies.
The tobacco companies also said they welcomed the high court review.
In other action Monday, the court:
- Left intact the federal rule banning airline captains over 60 from piloting large planes.
The justices, without comment, rejected a challenge to the Federal Aviation Administration's longstanding refusal to make any exceptions to its "age 60 rule."
- Rejected an appeal that urged it to say medical patients must be given a share of the profits if their extracted blood or organs become a source of lucrative scientific research.
The court, without comment, turned away arguments by John Moore, a Seattle leukemia victim who sought to sue California education officials and researchers over their use of his removed spleen and rare blood.
- Left intact a California anti-loitering law aimed at protecting children at their schools and other public places where they gather.