Tobacco Lawsuit Results in $13.8M Punitive Damages Against Philip Morris

A California jury has awarded nearly $14 million in punitive damages against Philip Morris USA to the daughter of a woman who died after a lifetime of smoking.

The tobacco lawsuit judgment came after the retrial of a case that previously resulted in a jury verdict of $28 billion. Although that record award was later reduced by the trial judge to $28 million, it was overturned on appeal and sent back for a new trial for the punitive damages portion of the claim.

The new trial resulted in an award of $13.8 million for Jodie Bullock, the daughter of Betty Bullock, who died in 2003 from complications caused by smoking. Betty Bullock started smoking in the 1950s, when she was 17 years old. She died approximately one year after the first court victory in 2002.

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Phillip Morris USA argued that no punitive damages were justified and claimed that Bullock should have known the risks of smoking. The first jury also awarded Bullock $750,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 for pain and suffering, which were not at issue during the retrial.

The original $28 billion award was thrown out by the California 2nd District Court of Appeal, which determined that the trial judge failed to give proper jury instructions on punitive damages. The appellate court determined that the judge should have told the jury that they could return an award based upon harm inflicted to other people besides the plaintiff in the case.

The appellate court determined that the first jury, in issuing the $28 billion award, attempted to penalize Phillip Morris by awarding $1 million for each of the estimated 28,000 smokers in California who have died in the last 40 years.


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