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Is the Bell Tolling For Philip Morris? $300M Verdict for One Former Smoker



After getting the mammoth $145 billion judgment against it thrown out on the grounds that each member of Florida's plaintiff smoker's class had to sue separately, the suits are coming in, and the latest verdict is not good news for the future of Philip Morris (and, therefore, for the future of its substantial yearly payments to the fifty states...) A Ft. Lauderdale jury favored one its residents, a 61-year-old woman with emphysema, to the tune of $300 million, of which $244 million was punitive and $56 million allegedly "compensatory". Cindy Naugle, sister of Ft. Lauderdale's former mayor, started smoking in 1968 when she was 20, allegedly because she thought cigarettes "made her look older." After several attempts to quit, she stopped smoking in 1993 with the aid of a nicotine patch. Today she requires 24-hour oxygen and must travel in a wheelchair because walking leaves her exhausted, her attorneys said.

There are 8000 more suits pending, and now that it seems clear that PM will be hemorrhaging money, I anticipate a rush to the courthouse to collect before bankruptcy ensues. At $300 million per pop, that's over $2 Trillion dollars. How did the jury come up with this punitive award, given PM's incredible existing exposure?

Many states have never seen $56 million compensatory verdicts for one plaintiff.

 

 


Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy
rmangual@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.