ALTRIA GROUP v. GOOD

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
07-562
Petitioner 
Altria Group, Inc., et al.
Respondent 
Stephanie Good, et al.
Advocates
(argued the cause for the petitioners)
(argued the cause for the respondents)
(Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the respondents)
Term:
Facts of the Case 

A group of cigarette smokers brought this claim against Altria, the cigarette manufacturer, in federal court in Maine. The smokers asserted that Altria's advertisement claiming that its product was "light" and had "lowered tar and nicotine" constituted misrepresentations under the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act. The United States District Court for the District of Maine granted summary judgment in favor of Altria on the claim.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, however, reversed the lower court and found in favor of the plaintiff smokers. The court held that the Maine Act was not preempted, either explicitly or implicitly, by a similar federal act, the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, and that Altria's assertions did in fact constitute misrepresentations under the Maine Act.

Question 

Does federal preemption of the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act hinge on the express or implied nature of the allegedly fraudulent misrepresentations?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Good, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Preemption

No. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Justice John Paul Stevens writing for the majority held that the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act (FCLAA) did not expressly or impliedly preempt all claims related to "smoking and health" under the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act (MUTPA). Adopting the reasoning it used in Cipollone, the court found that claims based on a common law legal duty ("predicate-duty" approach), like a manufacturer's duty not to misrepresent its products, were not preempted simply because they related to cigarette manufacturers and the labeling of its products.

Justice Clarence Thomas joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Justice Antonin G. Scalia, and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented. Justice Thomas disagreed with the majority's adoption of the "predicate-duty" approach from Cipollone arguing it was confusing and unworkable. Rather, he argued that the Court should adopt a clear test that expressly pre-empts any state law claim that "imposes an obligation…because of the effect of smoking upon health."

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ALTRIA GROUP v. GOOD. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 12 August 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2008/2008_07_562>.
ALTRIA GROUP v. GOOD, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2008/2008_07_562 (last visited August 12, 2014).
"ALTRIA GROUP v. GOOD," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 12, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2008/2008_07_562.