Court Reinstates Smoker's Award
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The state Supreme Court reinstated a $750,000 award for a former smoker against the nation's third largest cigarette maker.
The award - only the second time in 40 years of anti-smoking litigation that a tobacco company was ordered to pay damages - had been reversed on appeal.
Grady Carter, 69, sued Brown & Williamson in 1996, blaming the company for the lung cancer he developed after smoking for 44 years. A jury ruled that the cigarettes were a defective product and that their makers were negligent for not warning people of the danger.
An appeals court reversed the award nearly two years later, saying Carter had waited too long to go to court. It also said the jury award could not stand because of a 1969 federal law that bars lawsuits claiming the wording of the cigarette warning label is inadequate.
In a 5-0 ruling, Florida's high court disagreed with both conclusions and said the district court had overstepped its role.
``Accordingly, we quash the district court's decision in this case,'' Justice Major Harding wrote for the court.
A lawyer for Brown & Williamson hadn't read the opinion and said he couldn't comment.
Brown & Williamson is a subsidiary of British American Tobacco. Its brands include Kool, Capri, Raleigh, Viceroy, Carlton, Lucky Strike and Pall Mall.
The first award against a tobacco company in a liability case was won in 1988, but the $400,000 verdict was overturned on appeal, and the lawsuit was dropped.
Two years ago, a jury ordered Brown & Williamson to pay nearly $1 million to the family of a deceased smoker. It was the first time a jury awarded punitive damages in a tobacco liability case. That verdict also was overturned. The decision was appealed and is awaiting a trial date.