Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Punitive damages upheld in Miami-Dade County smoker case

FROM:  The News Service of Florida  Pointing to decades of efforts by the tobacco industry to mislead the public, a state appeals court Wednesday upheld a $25 million punitive-damages award against Lorillard Tobacco Co.  [FYI:  Lorillard, also owns Blu e-Cigarettes]

The 3rd District Court of Appeal also said Lorillard should pay $8 million in compensatory damages to Dorothy Alexander, whose husband, Coleman, started smoking cigarettes while in sixth grade and died at age 59.

The Miami-Dade County case is part of a wave of lawsuits against the tobacco industry stemming from a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision. The lawsuits, known in the legal world as “Engle progeny” cases, have been bolstered by parts of the Supreme Court decision that established critical findings about the health dangers of smoking and misrepresentation by cigarette makers.

In the Alexander case, Lorillard argued, in part, that the $25 million in punitive damages was unconstitutionally excessive.

But a three-judge panel flatly rejected the arguments. “The plaintiff provided more than sufficient evidence to show Lorillard’s conduct, both individually and as a member of the tobacco industry, of continuous, repeated, and aggressive attempts to discredit the scientific research revealing the harmful and addictive nature of cigarettes and to cast doubt on the validity of the scientific research by mounting advertising and public relations campaigns,” the ruling said.

“The plaintiff similarly provided evidence of more than a half-century of Lorillard’s reckless disregard of the scientific findings and of its indifference to the potential physical harm to consumers caused by its product for its own purely economic gain.”