In a ruling that could impact thousands of similar cases, a Florida jury has ordered Philip Morris, the largest tobacco company in the US, to pay the family of a lung cancer victim $8 million in damages.
Elaine Hess presented evidence to the jury showing that her husband Stuart had smoked three packs of cigarettes every day before dying of lung cancer at only 55. Philip Morris’ attorney argued that Hess had the free will to quit at any time, but the jury didn’t buy it.
Elaine was awarded $2 million for her loss, and their son David was awarded $1 million. The remaining $5 million were awarded as a “punishment” to Philip Morris for deceiving the public — and Stuart Hess — about the addictive nature of nicotine.
The Hess family originally asked for up to $35 million in damages, but the jury ruled that Stuart Hess was in fact partly responsible for his death. They decided that the company was only 42% responsible and adjusted the amount accordingly.
There are nearly 8,000 pending similar cases in Florida alone. The state supreme court threw out a $145 billion class-action suit in 2006, leaving families to fight individual battles against tobacco companies.Via: Florida Sun-Sentinal Photo Credit: włodi on Flickr under Creative Commons license.