Unfair Competition

A New Take on Tobacco Litigation

In Sanders v. Brown, case no. 05-15676 (9th Cir. Sept. 26, 2007), a smoker sued four tobacco companies. Old news, right? But Mr. Sanders didn’t sue them for making him sick. Nor for defrauding him about the addicitveness or ill health effects of tobacco. Nor for engineering cigarettes to enhance their addictive properties. No, Mr. Sanders sued because these companies were charging him too much for a pack of smokes.

Specifically, Sanders alleged that the companies were engaged in a price-fixing scheme enabled by the terms of the Master Settlement Agreement reached between the companies and 46 states (and several territories) and the various state statutes implementing the MSA terms. Thus, he also sued California’s attorney general.

In a decision addressing issues of preemption and immunity, the Ninth affirms dismissal under rule 12(b)(6), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

UPDATE (9/26/07): Those hungry for a little more detail on the merits should check out the coverage at California Appellate Report.