The Supreme Court today handed the tobacco industry a setback, rejecting without comment an appeal contending that West Virginia’s two-tiered system of consolidating cases is unconstitutional. In their appeal, industry lawyers called the process “deeply and fundamentally flawed,” the Wall Street Journal reports, but the plaintiffs' lawyers argued that hearing the cases individually would take "at least 180 judge years."
Under the system, a jury first decides if smokers as a whole deserve compensation, and then individual cases are decided in separate proceedings. West Virginia has used the system to settle other mass-litigation product-liability cases in areas like asbestos exposure, and proponents say it saves time and money. Today's ruling means sick smokers will be able to sue for millions and even billions of dollars in damages, Bloomberg reports.