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Tobacco Suit Deadlines Lifted by Ca. Supreme Court

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on May 09, 2011 9:46 AM

The California Supreme Court dealt Phillip Morris USA another blow last week in a ruling that may revitalize hundreds of lawsuits against the company.

Smokers in California who are diagnosed with a second smoking-related disease are no longer barred from bringing a tobacco lawsuit if they previously failed to file suit over a different smoking ailment.

In 1989, Nikki Pooshs was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She failed to sue Phillip Morris, allowing the statute of limitations to run out.

In 2003, she was diagnosed with lung cancer, which led to a tobacco lawsuit against the company in 2004.

Phillip Morris claimed that the lawsuit was barred, because California's statute of limitations in personal injury cases is only 2 years, and she had first suffered from a tobacco-related disease in 1989, reports Reuters.

Nikki Pooshs' attorney argued that it was not barred, because she was diagnosed with lung cancer, a different disease, in 2003, and that statute of limitations had not run out.

In response to a request from the 9th Circuit to chime in on California law, the Los Angeles Times reports that the California Supreme Court agreed with Nikki Pooshs.

In effect, the court said that, when the smoking-related ailments are distinguishable, the statute of limitations does not begin to run on the second injury when the first injury is discovered. Nikki Pooshs can thus continue with her tobacco lawsuit.

While it's unclear at this point the extent of the impact this decision will have on tobacco litigation, for some people, it will do one of two things: keep their case from being dismissed or allow one to be filed.

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