This year several cases discussed the preemptive effect of the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act upon state law tort and contract claims arising from the sale of cigarettes to smokers who contracted cancer. This is aptly illustrated by Forster v. R. Reynolds Tobacco Co., which was decided by the Minnesota Supreme Court. In that case, the smoker (Forster) sued a cigarette manufacturer (R.J. Reynolds) in strict products liability, misrepresentation, breach of warranty, and negligence. The cigarette manufacturer moved for summary judgment on the ground that the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act preempted all state tort claims. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment. On appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed, finding no preemption of state tort claims. The Minnesota Supreme Court granted the cigarette manufacturer's petition for review and, in an en bane decision, affirmed in part and reversed in part. The supreme court ruled that the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act preempted only those state claims based on failure to warn theories. It ruled that the strict products liability, breach of warranty, and negligence counts were not preempted to the extent that they were not based on such theories. In effect this left the smoker free to pursue claims based on defects in cigarettes; but, the court did not resolve the question of whether cigarettes can be defective because they are addictive and harmful to health. The court also held that a claim of misrepresentation arising from alleged false statements made in cigarette advertising was not preempted.

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Coauthored with John D. Wladis