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Each yeaar, the U.S. Supreme Court issues around 100 legal decisions, most of which are controversial. Despite their controversial nature, these decisions are rarely overturned due to the doctrine of stare decisis. Select one (1) U.S. Supreme Court decision issued in the past 10 years relating to the regulation of business and provide a rationale for why the decision should be returned notwithstanding the doctrine of stare decisis.

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Stare Decisis is the legal principal of determining points in litigation according to precedent. The Supreme Court case that dealt with workability is Altria Group, Inc. v. Good (2008). Stephanie Good and other smokers (“Good”) brought a class action suit against Altria Group (“Altria”) and its subsidiary, Philip Morris, for fraudulent misrepresentation under Maine state law. Good and the other plaintiffs claim that the use of descriptors such as “light” and “lower in tar and nicotine” in cigarette advertisements are misrepresentations because Federal Trade Commission mandated testing does not reflect the actual tar and nicotine delivery of “light” cigarettes. Altria argues that state law claims of fraudulent misrepresentation against cigarette companies are preempted by federal law.

Precedent was set with Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., a fractured decision from 1992 in which a four-Justice plurality held that the federal Labeling Act preempted certain state-law claims for fraudulent misrepresentation aimed at cigarette manufacturers.

It is the opinion of this writer to agree with Altria on this argument despite the case before because this particular type of misrepresentation is preempted by federal law regulations. Another reason would be because the decision in the precedential case did not defy clear application. For purposes of stare decisis, saying that a precedent is “unworkable” is functionally equivalent to saying it is “badly reasoned.” These statements indicate only that a stare decisis inquiry is necessary, not how the inquiry should play out.


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