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Law School Case Brief

Cipollone v. Liggett Grp. - 505 U.S. 504, 112 S. Ct. 2608 (1992)


U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2 provides that the laws of the United States shall be the supreme law of the land; any thing in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding. Thus, it is settled that any state law that conflicts with federal law is without effect. The consideration of issues arising under the Supremacy Clause starts with the assumption that the historic police powers of the States are not to be superseded by federal act unless that is the clear and manifest purpose of Congress. The purpose of Congress is the ultimate touchstone of pre-emption analysis. Congress' intent may be explicitly stated in the statute's language or implicitly contained in its structure and purpose. In the absence of an express congressional command, state law is pre-empted if that law actually conflicts with federal law or if federal law so thoroughly occupies a legislative field as to make reasonable the inference that Congress left no room for the States to supplement it. 


The decedent, Rose D. Cipollone, began smoking cigarettes in 1942. She ultimately developed lung cancer and died in 1984. The decedent's son, plaintiff Thomas Cipollone, individually and as executor of the decedent's estate, filed a lawsuit in federal district court alleging that defendants Liggett Group and other cigarette manufacturers were liable under New Jersey state law for breach of express warranties contained in their advertising, failure to warn consumers about the hazards of smoking, fraudulent misrepresentation of the hazards, and conspiracy to deprive the public of medical and scientific information about smoking. Ultimately, after protracted litigation, an appeal and remand, the district court ruled that the state law claims, to the extent that those claims relied on post-1965 advertising, promotional, and public relations activities, were preempted by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965, 15 U.S.C.S. §§ 1331-1340, and its successor, the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1969, 15 U.S.C.S. §§ 1331-1340. A jury awarded Cipollone $ 400,000 in damages, primarily on the failure to warn and express warranty claims for pre-1966 conduct. On cross appeals, the court of appeals affirmed the district court's ruling as to preemption, but reversed and remanded the matter for a new trial on other grounds. Cipollone was granted a writ of certiorari.


Are the claims based upon the breach of an express warranty, intentional fraud, and conspiracy preempted by federal law?




The Supreme Court of the United States reversed in part and affirmed in part the appellate court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court ruled, among other things, that due to the strong presumption against the pre-emption of state police power regulations, the 1965 Act did not, by its statutory language, preempt state common law damages claims. The Court held that the more broad language of the 1969 Act did preempt some common law damages claims based upon the failure to warn and fraudulent misrepresentation; however, the claims based upon the breach of an express warranty, intentional fraud, and conspiracy were not preempted.

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