Castano v. American Tobacco Co.
United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
84 F.3d 734 (1996)
Castano (plaintiff) is the representative plaintiff for a class of plaintiffs that is defined as all nicotine-addicted individuals in the United States born after 1943, a class that would include millions of people. American Tobacco Co. (defendant) is one of eight tobacco companies who are being sued by Castano and the class. Castano alleges that American Tobacco was aware of the addictive nature of nicotine, withheld that information from the public, and in fact manipulated the level of nicotine in cigarettes to increase demand. Castano sued and the class was certified by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The district court certified the class, ordering a four-stage litigation process. First, a jury would decide the “core liability issues” dealing with defendants’ knowledge and their actions with regard to nicotine levels in cigarettes. Second, the jury would then decide issues of injury-in-fact of plaintiffs, proximate cause, reliance, and any affirmative defenses. Third, there would then be a determination of compensatory damages for each member of the class individually. Finally, a jury would determine the punitive damages to be awarded to each individual member of the class based on a ratio arrived at during the first phase. The defendants filed an appeal of the class certification.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Smith, J.)