Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc.
505 U.S. 504 (1992)

Annotate this Case

OCTOBER TERM, 1991

Syllabus

CIPOLLONE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF CIPOLLONE v. LIGGETT GROUP, INC., ET AL.

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

No. 90-1038. Argued October 8, 1991-Reargued January 13, 1992Decided June 24, 1992

Section 4 of the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act (1965 Act) required a conspicuous label warning of smoking's health hazards to be placed on every package of cigarettes sold in this country, while § 5 of that Act, captioned "Preemption," provided: "(a) No statement relating to smoking and health, other than the [§ 4] statement ... , shall be required on any cigarette package," and "(b) No [such] statement ... shall be required in the advertising of any cigarettes the packages of which are labeled in conformity with" § 4. Section 5(b) was amended by the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1969 (1969 Act) to specify: "No requirement or prohibition based on smoking and health shall be imposed under State law with respect to the advertising or promotion of any cigarettes the packages of which are [lawfully] labeled." Petitioner's complaint in his action for damages invoked the District Court's diversity jurisdiction and alleged, inter alia, that respondent cigarette manufacturers were responsible for the 1984 death of his mother, a smoker since 1942, because they breached express warranties contained in their advertising, failed to warn consumers about smoking's hazards, fraudulently misrepresented those hazards to consumers, and conspired to deprive the public of medical and scientific information about smoking, all in derogation of duties created by New Jersey law. The District Court ultimately ruled, among other things, that these claims were preempted by the 1965 and 1969 Acts to the extent that the claims relied on respondents' advertising, promotional, and public relations activities after the effective date of the 1965 Act. The Court of Appeals affirmed on this point.

Held: The judgment is reversed in part and affirmed in part, and the case is remanded.

893 F.2d 541, reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded.

JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, III, and IV, concluding that § 5 of the 1965 Act did not pre-


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empt state-law damages actions, but superseded only positive enactments by state and federal rulemaking bodies mandating particular warnings on cigarette labels or in cigarette advertisements. This conclusion is required by the section's precise and narrow prohibition of required cautionary "statement[s]"; by the strong presumption against pre-emption of state police power regulations; by the fact that the required § 4 warning does not by its own effect foreclose additional obligations imposed under state law; by the fact that there is no general, inherent conflict between federal pre-emption of state warning requirements and the continued vitality of common-law damages actions; and by the Act's stated purpose and regulatory context, which establish that § 5 was passed to prevent a multiplicity of pending and diverse "regulations," a word that most naturally refers to positive enactments rather than common-law actions. Pp. 517-520.

JUSTICE STEVENS, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE WHITE, and JUSTICE O'CONNOR, concluded in Parts V and VI that § 5(b) of the 1969 Act pre-empts certain of petitioner's failure-to-warn and fraudulent misrepresentation claims, but does not pre-empt other such claims or the claims based on express warranty or conspiracy. Pp. 520-530.

(a) The broad language of amended § 5(b) extends the section's preemptive reach beyond positive enactments to include some common-law damages actions. The statutory phrase "requirement or prohibition" suggests no distinction between positive enactments and common law, but, in fact, easily encompasses obligations that take the form of common-law rules, while the phrase "imposed under State law" clearly contemplates common law as well as statutes and regulations. This does not mean, however, that § 5(b) pre-empts all common-law claims, nor does the statute indicate that any familiar subdivision of common law is or is not pre-empted. Instead, the precise language of § 5(b) must be fairly but-in light of the presumption against pre-emption-narrowly construed, and each of petitioner's common-law claims must be examined to determine whether it is in fact pre-empted. The central inquiry in each case is straightforward: whether the legal duty that is the predicate of the common-law damages action satisfies § 5(b)'s express terms, giving those terms a fair but narrow reading. Each phrase within the section limits the universe of common-law claims pre-empted by the statute. Pp. 517-524.

(b) Insofar as claims under either of petitioner's failure-to-warn theories-i. e., that respondents were negligent in the manner that they tested, researched, sold, promoted, and advertised their cigarettes, and that they failed to provide adequate warnings of smoking's consequences-require a showing that respondents' post-1969 advertising or


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Full Text of Opinion

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