Judge gives the green light to £100bn tobacco class action

A host of US firms are preparing for battle after a New York judge ruled that a case against tobacco firms could go ahead as a class action.

The case was first filed by Cohen Milstein Hausfeld & Toll in May 2004, against companies including Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, British American Tobacco (BAT), Liggett Group, Brown & Williamson and Lorillard Tobacco.

The plaintiffs allege that cigarette companies conspired to deceive the American public about the comparative dangers of “light” or “low tar” cigarettes. Damages could amount to $200bn (£105bn) if the case is successful.

Many of the US’s biggest law firms are involved representing the defendants. Arnold & Porter and Kirkland & Ellis are acting for Phillip Morris, with Kirkland also instructed by Brown & Williamson.

Jones Day and North Carolina firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice are acting for RJ Reynolds. Chadbourne & Parke has scooped instructions from BAT and Greenberg Traurig is acting for Lorillard. Meanwhile New York firm Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman represents Liggett Group.

The case is one of several being brought against tobacco companies in the US.