Philip Morris Ordered to Pay $13.8 Mill Over Smoking Death

Philip Morris has just been ordered to pay nearly $14 million to the child of a deceased long-time smoker. The deceased—Betty Bullock—died in 2003 at age 64 of lung cancer, the BBC reported, adding that the Los Angeles jury decided in favor of Jodie Bolluck. Philip Morris is a subsidiary of tobacco products company, Altria, located in Virginia.

Betty Bullock smoked for 47 years and, just prior to her death, sued Phillip Morris in 2001 alleging fraud and <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/product_liability">product liability, said the BBC. Philip Morris argued that Bullock could have quit at any time given that cigarettes’ harmful effects are widely known. In that case, the jury recommended in 2002 that the tobacco giant pay $28 billion in punitive damages to Bullock; however, the award was reduced by a judge to $28 million, said the BBC. The U.S. Court of Appeal overturned the $28 million jury decision—Philip Morris argued that the amount was “excessive”—and the case was sent for a new trial, said the BBC.

In 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeal overturned the jury’s decision and sent the case for a new trial, with Philip Morris arguing that the $28m was excessive, according to the BBC.

In May, we reported that big tobacco lost another important court case. In that situation, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said there was ample evidence to conclude that the tobacco industry intended to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking. According to Dow Jones News Wire, the panel upheld most of a lower court ruling, which found that the industry’s deceptive marketing schemes violated federal anti-racketeering statutes.

The original 2006 case had resulted in a lower court banning labels such as “low tar” and “light” for cigarettes, with the court finding that tobacco firms conspired through a “gentlemen’s agreement” not to compete over whose cigarettes were the least damaging to health. Defendants in that case included Philip Morris, Reynolds American Inc., British American Tobacco PLC, and Lorillard Inc, Dow Jones said.

The 2006 decision also required manufacturers to issue corrective statements about the dangers of their products, which would appear on television, newspapers, product packaging and countertop displays in retail outlets.

In their appeal, the tobacco companies argued that the law did not support the original decision or the evidence presented at trial. For the most part, the appeals panel rejected those arguments, Dow Jones said. In their 92-page ruling, the judges said that tobacco firms “knew about the negative health consequences of smoking, the addictiveness and manipulation of nicotine, the harmfulness of secondhand smoke, and the concept of smoker compensation, which makes light cigarettes no less harmful than regular cigarettes and possibly more.”

Late last year, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the 1965 Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act does not protect cigarette makers from fraud lawsuits over how those makers market cigarettes they describe as “light” or “low tar.” Also, the high court said federal oversight of cigarette testing did not preclude those lawsuits.

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