A class-action lawsuit filed last week against cigarette makers on behalf of four Utahns might be superseded by one filed last month - at least for smokers younger than 19.
Provo attorney B. Seth Bailey filed the suit last month on behalf of two 18-year-olds and another juvenile, all of whom live in Utah County. The suit seeks class-action certification and could include 30,000 underage smokers throughout the state.The suit, which was assigned to 4th District Judge Ray M. Harding Jr., asks for damages of up to $75,000 per plaintiff. In all, attorneys said, the suit could involve a judgment of more than $2 billion against 19 tobacco companies.
"One of the reasons we decided to file on behalf of young people is that they are the most vulnerable," Bailey said.
Seth Bailey and his father, H. Deloyd Bailey, filed the suit on behalf of teens Anna Herrera, Breeanna Herrera and Rachel Grimes. Seth Bailey said he doesn't think the trio of Salt Lake law firms that filed a similar suit Friday - one that wasn't limited to teens but instead sought damages for all Utah smokers - were aware of his lawsuit.
"It was just coincidence, except for the fact that we beat them by three weeks," Seth Bailey said. The question of who filed first could be significant because courts generally favor the first class-action suit if more than one is filed for the same cause. In other states, multiple class-action suits against tobacco companies have sometimes been consolidated, causing bickering among attorneys about legal strategy.
The suit filed by Bailey is unique because it alleges that tobacco companies committed civil battery by causing harmful contact with minors involving tobacco products.