WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court yesterday removed a legal barrier to tobacco lawsuits filed over the allegedly deceptive marketing of "light" cigarettes, allowing for suits based on certain state deceptive practice laws to move forward.

The 5-4 ruling by the justices, who sided with a group of Maine residents over Altria Group Inc., the parent company of Philip Morris USA Inc., could negatively affect credit ratings for tobacco bonds, if lower courts force tobacco companies to pay damages in lawsuits.

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