Big Tobacco Makes Mistrial Motion
The tobacco industry derailed the start of the second phase of a landmark smokers' trial Tuesday with a mistrial motion charging jurors are too prejudiced to decide monetary damages.
Circuit Judge Robert Kaye, May 19(AP/Wilfredo Lee)The jury found in July that the nation's five biggest cigarette makers deceptively produced a deadly product and was scheduled to begin hearing the money question Tuesday.
The status of the case was uncertain after a state appeals court ruled Friday that damages must be decided one smoker at a time, eliminating the possibility of a blockbuster judgment some analysts feared could be as high as $200 billion.
On Tuesday Circuit Judge Robert Kaye called the panel into court only long enough to tell them they would have to come back later in the week after he decides several motions.
Kaye ordered attorneys to return to court Wednesday on the motions.
The mistrial motion claims jurors are biased based in large part on suspicions that some jurors tuned into news media coverage of their verdict covering up to 500,000 sick Florida smokers.
When Kaye asked jurors Tuesday if they had seen any news accounts of the case, no one spoke up.
Cigarette makers believe the jury will be influenced by a conscious or unconscious desire to conform to ``an overarching theme'' of news coverage that the jury made the right decision by going against the industry.